Thursday, July 23, 2009

Smells like Florida

"It smells like Florida." Words spoken often by my younger brother whenever the summer heat and humidity reminded him of our yearly trips to Casey Key, FL. Growing up we would take off a couple weeks in March and fly down to spend the 1/2 month in a time share on the beach. The first day usually was filled with grocery shopping, claiming the best room in the house, and breaking in your beach feet by walking up and down looking for sharks teeth. Over the years we must have brought back hundreds of sharks teeth. They fill jars and bottles in my parents house and there is still a conch filled lamp in my old bedroom.

I think we started going to Florida for the space shuttle launches. My parents went to high school with Mark Lee, a then astronaut who was able to get us access to view the launches from the nearest point allowed. We'd drive out to a sandy peninsula, park alongside the road, and pull out the lawn chairs. Surrounded by water and signs that said "No swimming allowed, crocodile infested waters" we'd wait for the countdown with the other special access observers. 5, 4, 3, 2, 1.... We have lift off! The ground would shake with the force of the shuttle bursting upwards, trailed by fluffy white clouds. Even after we stopped going to the launches, we still travelled to Florida in March. It was a great event to look forward to in the spring semester when wet sloppy snow and cold mornings were the daily forecast.

There are many memories from those trips.
The little wood stilt shack on the beach that leaned more to the left every year.
Surviving the small off shore hurricane where they evacuated us from the peninsula, dad grabbing at flying deck chairs trying to get them into the garage, me being semi-delusional from a weird illness I was sure was Red Tide.
All the crazy animals washed up on the beach after the storm. Those gross black snakes that would slither along the white house and freak my mom out. The Doberman Pincher guard dogs that chased my brother and sister after they got too close to the Mob neighbor's mansion. Charlie the Crane (who I'm sure was a different Crane every year) walking on the deck. Picking up free old loaves of bread from the store and throwing the crumbs into the air for the seagulls to dive and catch.
Mud pies and sand castles. Lobster dinners and the time our uncle visited and was red as a Lobster from falling asleep in the sun. Orange groves and fresh squeezed juice.
But I never remember any key limes.

Key Lime Filling
4 eggs
1 can evaporated milk
1/2 cup key lime juice
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/8 tsp salt
Mix all ingredients together and pour over pre-baked crust. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean when tested.
Graham Cracker Crust
8 graham crackers
4 tbsp butter
Crush crackers up and mix with melted butter. Press into pan. Bake at 400 degrees for 10-15 minutes until slightly brown.

Pesto Donuts

I know. It sounds amazing.

I got this recipe out of my bread book and thought it sounded nice with some meatballs the other night. Our basil plant is on it's last leg. We've needed to harvest the leaves and make a big batch of pesto for about a month now.... hopefully the bunnies won't get to it first.

While the picture in the cook book made the muffins look thick and crumbly, mine turned out hollow and more donut-like in texture. I think our homemade pesto sauce has a bit more oil than cheese and caused the semi-frying of the muffins.

You can see the olive oil getting hot and bubbling out the tops of the muffins. It continued to pour over slowly and turned the muffins into little fried pop-overs with a pesto center. The dough was thick and soft, with buttery hints of basil. A big hit for the night!

Pesto Donut-Muffins
2 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp baking powder
1 egg
2 tbsp milk
1/4 cup pesto sauce
Combine dry ingredients together. In a large bowl mix egg and milk. Add in flour mixture and stir together until just combined.
In a non-stick or sprayed muffin tin, fill 1/3 way using half the batter. Spoon in peso sauce in the middle of the battered muffin tin. Cover with remaining batter mixture.
Bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes or until tops are golden. Remove, let cool slightly.
Pesto Sauce
20 fresh basil leaves
10-15 pine nuts
1/4 parmesean cheese
1/4 olive oil
pepper and salt to taste
Mix basil, nuts, and cheese in a blender. Slowly add oil. Adjust seasoning to taste.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Fall is Coming

It's turning into Fall here, I swear! The weather has turned from sweltering 100+ degree heat to balmy high 60's days. And even though Fall is my favorite season I'm missing summer already.

We've been on a bit of a dessert kick lately. Thinking ahead to the apple season has me wishing it was already here. I'll usually make a bunch of pies up from the apple orchard we visit. My mom has a nice trick of using Tapioca grains to make the filling thick without being starchy. It's a great thickener to have on hand.

Apple Pie Filling
6 large apples, peeled and sliced thin
2 tbsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp allspice
4 tbsp butter
2 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp Tapioca

Mix all together in a bowl and add to premade pie crust. Bake to instructions. Top with caramel.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Baby Blogger

My generation is in a baby boom. I have so many friends who are planning on or have just had kids, it's amazing! Congrats to them all!

Mr. Mike and I were asked to be godparents for one such amazing family this spring. I've been meaning to post on that for awhile now.

We are so thankful to them for their friendship and wonderful support for us over the years. I don't know what I'd do without you Halls!

For almost the entire time I've known B she's been preggers. Two wonderful boys and one beautiful girl... it's seems like a lifetime ago when we moved up here to the cities and she carted us around trying to find the 'perfect' house. Thanks for all your patience!!! I don't know how you stand us sometimes!

Now the hubbies play regular golf, the girls have nights out, and we've gotten to experience a multitude of first childhood memories with their family. I can't wait till birthday #4 when I'll be attempting to make a Thomas the Train cake.... thanks again for your faith and support B!

These little guys were watercolor drawings I put together for no particular reason, I just thought the kiddos might like them since they love that zoo so much. Enoy!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Stars and Stripes

For the America's Birthday this year we traveled north to the cabin in Wisconsin. The lake was amazingly low traffic and the boaters who were out were in full "4th" mode. I wish I had pictures of all the pontoons decorated with flags and streamers and ribbons. So much stuff that's it's surprise they had room for a beer cooler on the boats!
Every time we leave for the cabin I feel that we are packing for 3 weeks instead of three days. We have a cooler full of food, two smallish suitcases, bikes, games, the dog and all her toys, the new Duck Dog bed for the cabin, golf clubs, more food... *sigh* it's an adventure.
Mr. Mike had picked up a huge bag of cherries in our food preparation the week before. You have to prepare for the trip, because you never know what will be left up at the cabin. With three of our families trading weekends there's never a reliable stock (sorry guys but I used the last of the flour!)

So I made some 'stars and stripes' cherry turnovers...
And then a Cherry Pie...
There are still cherries left....

But there was more than baking with cherries this weekend. There was a lot of time spent on the deck playing yhatzee, cribbage, backgammon, cards, and bags.
There was a lot of time snoozing by the dog on her new cabin bed.

There was golf. There were trees, water hazards, and sand traps.

There was a bike ride.

And with all of our bike rides there was a pony. There's always a pony when we go out for a ride. I have no idea why.