Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Out of Character...

I am decidedly anti-sweets, but I have been working on a cookbook to commemorate the Oak Park and River Forest Day Nursery's centennial that has forced me to dabble in desserts...and just look at what I made today.  These banana walnut spring rolls were served as part of the organization's 2004 Asian inspired progressive dinner called, A Wok Around the Block and will appear on page 103 of the cookbook.  It will be finished in the next couple of weeks.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Back to School Burger Boy...

Finn's back to school breakfast request included a burger so I think it is safe to assume that he is officially an 8th grader.  In addition to having a hollow leg, he has a great attitude about the start to the school year; we have high hopes he will make the most of it.  Finn also took to the pitch with his new soccer team this week-end.  They won their game and Finn got the start and played nearly the entire game.  All that and a burger for breakfast?  Things are looking pretty darn good for our handsome middle schooler!

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Ella and Scott at FitzGerald's

On Thursday evening all four of us ventured out to see Ella Gill and Scott Daniel perform at FitzGerald's.  The Frigs and the Tillotsons met us there and none of them had seen these two talented folks put on a show before.  Let me just say that everyone there was blown away by their extreme talent and captivating performance.  I cannot think of a better way to spend an evening...seriously.
These two always bring up Jake Shadrake to perform a song or two with them as a special treat for the audience.  Honestly, I've know Jake since he was in elementary school and the fact that left for college this week-end is just unbelievable to me!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013


My goodness! Time sure does fly.
Emma looked pretty as she headed out the door this morning to start her third year at OPRF.  It is impossible to imagine she has made it to this pivotal year already, but I imagine she will handle the challenges of her junior year with considerable confidence and grace.
Knock 'em dead Emma Grace!


While grocery shopping in Wisconsin over the week-end, I took one look at this peanut square and just had to have it.  People who know me well will find the fact that I picked up any sort of sweet treat strange, but food memories make people do quirky things.  My mom used to buy the little cakes for my brother and me as a special treat while we were growing up and it didn't occur to me until this week-end that I've never really seen them outside of Wisconsin.  I shared one of the cakes with Ang and Penny over coffee in the late afternoon and we all agreed it was pretty amazing.  It tastes a little like a Pay Day Candy Bar and I didn't over remember them at all.  I brought the second cake home to Emma and Finn who declared peanut squares to be as delicious as I think they are!
 Just in case I get another peanut square craving I found this recipe on line; I am not a big Taste of Home user, but it makes sense you's find this timeless recipe there.

Homemade Peanut Squares
(recipe via Taste of Home)

For the Cake:
4 Eggs 
1 3/4 Cup of sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-3/4 Cups all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1 Cup of milk
1/4 Cup butter, melted

For the Frosting:
7-1/2 C powdered sugar
2/3 Cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
6 Cups chopped peanuts

1.  In a large bowl, beat the eggs, sugar and vanilla until thick and lemon colored, about 4 minutes.  Combine the flour, baking powder and salt; add to the egg mixture. Beat on low speed until just combined.  Beat in milk and butter.

2.  Pour the batter into a greased 9x13 baking pan.  Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes or until a pick comes out clean.  Cool on a wire rack, cut into squares and freeze overnight.

3.  For the frosting,in a small bowl, beat the powdered sugar, milk, vanilla and salt until smooth.  Frost the tops and sides of the frozen cake squared; roll in peanuts.  All to set on a wire rack.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Dinners at the O'Connor House...

The Pfour live in one of the most exceptional homes I've ever seen and their mid-century modern marvel practically begs to host extravagant and elaborate parties.  Thankfully, Brian hatched a plan to have me cook a duo of dinner parties over two nights for two distinct groups of was such an honor to throw down nearly 200 plates of food in such an extraordinary space!  It was a ton of work to transport all my delicate dishes and plan a menu that made the most of limited prep time, but seeing the magical meals come together was truly inspiring.  To make things even better, Penny came with me to serve the meal. Getting to hang out with two of my favorite girls for two days was probably my favorite part of the entire week-end. I just love it when work and pleasure come together.

Kitchen Companions...

Just imagine looking up from a pile of work and seeing this snugly bunch watching your every move. It goes without saying that cooking around this trio of characters this week-end was a true delight!
  In addition to hosting two elaborate dinner parties in her house this week-end and scrubbing the floors every two minutes to prepare for them, my friend, Ang, managed her back yard wildlife, dealt with a flooded dining room table (totally my fault), loved on her handsome dog, and carted  kids to a soccer tournament all week-end long. And she did it all with a smile on. She is basically superwoman!  I just love watching my Ang around her boys; they are three of my favorite people in the entire world.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Roulette Peppers...

A while back, a dinner guest of mine gifted me three orphaned padrone pepper plants; she had simply run out of room in her garden to plant anything else.  They were tiny fragile things, but I assured her I would take good care of them.  I am not the best when it comes to growing things...I've tried to nurture tomatoes more times than I'd care to mention and never had much to show for it, I accidentally let my basil go to seed pretty much annually, and have had rabbits nibble away at anything that remotely looks edible in our back yard, but I had made a commitment to these peppers.  And just look...
I actually harvested these beauties and I feel like a micro urban farmer.  I plan to blister these in a pan and hit them with a little sea salt and see what happens.  Padrones are a member of the capsicum family, but unlike their sibling peppers (like scorching hot habaneros) tend not to be hot.  Well, about 90% of them any way; the other 10% pack a punch I'm told.  Let the padrone pepper roulette begin.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Beach Day and a Stowaway...

Yesterday, my mom and Emma enjoyed a shopping day at Bayshore Mall in Wisconsin and that makes taking Finn to visit the Pettit boys ideal!  After having an indulgent  lunch a Kopp's, Ang and the boys and I headed to Doctors Park to let the boys take a swim in the lake.
We chatted the afternoon away and before we knew it, the time had come to pick Emma up.  Needless to say the boys were totally bummed, but they managed to hatch a plan for Finn to stowaway in Wisconsin.  After a few minutes of thought, Ang and I decided the boys had a great idea.  The boys literally gasped with glee when we said yes.  They had suspected their plan had a "zero percent chance of working."  I was fun proving them wrong and  I happily left Finn behind to have some fun with two of his favorite people in the world.
I bet they are having a fantastic time!

Monday, August 5, 2013

Game On...

HRH Nonna Nancy came for dinner this week-end and she and Emma played a fun round round of cowboy golf in the backyard.  Nan is having a knee replacement today so she can remain mobile and pain free for a good long time.  Leif is spending the day watching over his mom, but all of us are sending her good vibes and look forward to seeing her soon.

At the Table...

On Saturday, we hosted a lovely little dinner party for one of Leif's colleagues.  Finn is usually the life of the party, but after staying up all night twice at an infamous double sleepover he was more than a little tired.  As I was finishing up my dessert I looked over to find a sleepy headed Finn at the table.  I swear he was three the last time he did something like this. I snapped a quick picture and put him right to bed.

In the mail...

We just put the finishing touches on the CD we'll be sending to Elise in France.  Finn could not pronounce "quatre" and Elise could not pronounce "squirrel" so the name for our compilation album seemed obvious.  The songs all have a special meaning and some of the artists on the list include PZK, The Psychedelic Furs, Frank Sinatra, LMFAO and Neon Trees.  The song list is as eclectic as the outings we shared while Elise was with our family!
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