Blood Orange Tart

I am infatuated with Blood Oranges.
My daughter is looking over my shoulder nodding Yep.

So pretty.

I first fell for them when we were living in Tunisia. Here, they are a bright spot in the bleak days of winter when the rain and overcast skies threaten to linger past their welcome.
Now I sort of hoard them when I see them. I juice them and freeze the juice and the zest. 
No idea what I am going to do with my stash but it makes me happy knowing it is there.

A few weeks ago I offered a "Dessert a Month" at a fundraising auction. My friend Missy bought my offering and we agreed my first dessert would be for Easter. So, I made Blood Orange Bars with Brown Butter Crust

I halved the recipe and made it into a tart.


This rich buttery shortbread crust was filled with a gorgeous Blood Orange Curd. The curd was beautiful in color, very smooth (okay it was luscious,) and showed off that delicious berry-orange flavor the oranges are known for. 

See what I mean

All finished.

Blood Orange Bars with Brown Butter Crust
adapted from White on Rice Couple

A few notes. This recipe is meant to be made in a 9" x 13" or 1/4 sheet pan. I made half of this recipe and used a 4" x 14" tart pan. Even so I had PLENTY of crust and curd leftover and made an additional 12 tarts in a mini muffin tin. I also found my oranges to be on the too sweet side and lacking acid, taste your juice. I added the juice of two lemons to balance the flavor.

Crust:
2 Cups unsalted butter
1/2 cup sugar
3 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Blood Orange Curd:
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
12 eggs beaten
4 egg yolks beaten
zest of 6 Blood Oranges
2 1/2 cups of Blood Orange juice (taste your juice!)
1 cup unsalted butter, cold, cut into 1/2" pieces

Preheat the oven to 350 Grease pan and set aside.

Crust: Put butter in a saucepan to melt over medium low heat. Cook the butter until it begins to smell nutty and toasty and turns amber in color. This is not the time to go check Facebook. You'll burn your butter. I'm sure your mom would have something to say about that.
Once brown, remove the butter from the heat and stir in the sugar. Blend until the sugar is nearly dissolved. In a mixing bowl combine the flour and salt. Stir in the butter mixture until well blended then press into the prepared pan working the dough up the sides of the pan and evenly across the bottom. Neaten up those edges....presentation is important.

Bake the crust for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile...
Make the curd: Set a medium saucepan filled with water over medium high heat and bring to a gentle boil.
In a mixing bowl that can set over the simmering water, whisk together the cornstarch, sugar, and salt. Add the eggs, zest and juice. Set the bowl over the saucepan, you do not want the water to touch the bottom of your mixing bowl.
Cook the curd stirring frequently until it begins to thicken. Remove the mixing bowl from the simmering water and stir in the butter a few small pieces at a time until it is all incorporated. Strain the curd through a fine mesh strainer.

Pour the curd into the crust as soon as it comes out of the oven. Return the pan to the oven and cook for an additional 15 minutes or until the filling has thickened and looks slightly set.
Cool completely then refrigerate at least 4 hours, but overnight is best.
Serve chilled.


3.14


A pie on Pi Day for my math loving guy. Two pies in one blog post.


Banoffee Pie
Adapted from Epicurious

Make the toffee/Dulce de Leche the day before or morning of when making this pie. I refrigerated the toffee overnight and would recommend letting it come to room temperature prior to spreading in pie crust. Let's just say the crust in the above photo was not the first crust made that day...

2 cans of sweetened condensed milk.
9 inch pie crust baked according to directions and cooled
3 large bananas
1 1/2 cups whipping cream
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
grated chocolate for garnish, optional

Toffee:
Using the 2 cans of sweetened condensed milk follow these instructions to make Dulce de Leche.
Allow to cool completely. You can use store bought Dulce if, you know, you're a cheater.

Once cooled spread evenly in pre-baked pie crust. Slice bananas and distribute evenly over Dulce de Leche.

Beat cream, brown sugar, and vanilla until soft peaks form. Pile over top of bananas. Garnish with grated chocolate and refrigerate until ready to serve.

I make stabilized whipped cream so that it doesn't deflate while waiting for the pie to be served. If you are interested in doing the same, follow these instructions.


The picture isn't great but the dish is delicious!

Pi Day Pot Pie

Black Pepper Pastry:
1 1/3 cup all purpose flour
6 tablespoons butter very cold, diced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon coarse cracked black pepper
3-5 tablespoons ice water

Filling:
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts cooked and cut into bite sized pieces
1 medium onion diced
4 carrots peeled and sliced
2 large potatoes peeled and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
2 cups frozen peas
5 tablespoons of butter
5 tablespoons of all purpose flour
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 1/2 cups chicken broth
3/4 cup heavy cream
juice of half a lemon
salt and pepper to taste
olive oil

Preheat oven to 375.

Pastry:
In a large mixing bowl combine flour, butter, salt and pepper. Toss together then cut butter into flour mixture until well combined. Add water by the tablespoon and toss with a fork until dough comes together. Gather into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate.

Filling:
First make the roux. In a saucepan melt butter over medium heat. Add flour and whisk until smooth. Cook the roux until light brown in color.
Add thyme and then slowly add the chicken broth whisking continuously to make a smooth sauce. Add cream and lemon juice. Turn off heat and set aside.
In a large saute pan heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and saute until translucent and just beginning to brown. Add carrots and potatoes and saute for 5 minutes. Add frozen peas and toss through. Season with salt and pepper.

Assembly:.
Mix vegetables and prepared chicken with the sauce. Pour into a 9x13 baking dish and spread evenly.

Remove pastry dough from refrigerator and roll on flour dusted surface into a rough 9x13 inch rectangle. Drape over filling and cut vents in top.

Bake for 40 minutes.

Happy Pi Day everyone!
Especially Andy.






Salted Peanut Butter Cookies

I don't know what plans you have for the weekend, but you should stop what you are doing and make these.


I am going to go out on a limb and proclaim these as MY MOST FAVORITE OF ALL THE DAYS PEANUT BUTTER COOKIE. 
Because saying "World's Best" is just so overdone.

They are a little crispy, chewy on the bottom, fudgy in the middle, and I am smitten with the crinkly tops sprinkled with sea salt. Also. They are delicious.

If you want to be virtuous you can tell your friends they are gluten and dairy free.

Salted Peanut Butter Cookies
adapted from Ovenly  and Smitten Kitchen

1 3/4 cup dark brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
Coarse sea salt

Preheat oven to 350. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a mixing bowl beat together the brown sugar, eggs, vanilla and peanut butter. Once all the ingredients come together it should have the look and feel of play-doh.

Pop the mixing bowl in the freezer for 15 minutes. This helps to create those lovely craggy tops. After 15 minutes stir the dough well. Use a 1/4 cup scoop to form the dough, and space evenly on the baking sheet. I typically get 16-18 cookies, the original recipe says 12. Sprinkle the tops with the sea salt and bake for 20 minutes. If you are baking two sheets of cookies rotate the pans halfway through the baking time.

Remove from the oven and let the cookies sit on the baking sheets for 2 minutes before being removed to cool. I simply slide them off the baking sheet with the parchment paper and allow to cool on the counter.

Notes:
- Do you need to freeze the dough? No, but the cookies will spread and have smoother tops. Not bad things mind you.
- Can I use a spoon to form the dough? Yes, but again the cookies won't look the same. Again, not a bad thing.
- Can I use natural peanut butter? Nope. The overall texture of the cookie will be different. This is a Skippy Peanut Butter all the way kind of situation, or maybe Jif if that's your thing.

Christmas Pre-Func(tion)

Do people even say Pre-Func anymore?
Anyway, we had some old friends over for dinner last night. The house is all decorated (but that in no way implies we are ready for Christmas. No ma'am, we are not), there was a howling windstorm outside, and all was cozy inside.
A perfect night for a post-mortem on Thanksgiving, the good, the bad, and the ugly, and to give each other a pep talk for the upcoming holiday which will be equally rife with shenanigans, expectations, and probably too much of ALL THE THINGS.

So. To get the party started we had this.


My younger daughter had returned from a Young Life camp this past summer raving about BIG COOKIES and MOM I GOT THE RECIPE except IT FEEDS 900 PEOPLE. 
900 people. I'm not one to shy away from big projects but...The math to scale that recipe was crazy making, so I tossed it aside and turned to my good friend Mr. Google. Thankfully, Big Cookies, aka Pizzookies or Skillet Cookies, are a total thing so it wasn't too hard to find a recipe.


Yes, we ate it straight out of the pan. I put plates out, what was I thinking.
I was pretty convinced that we wouldn't be able to finish it and wondered how I would wrap up the leftovers.


Forgive the blurry photo. Just needed proof that yes, I clearly underestimated my friends. We polished the whole thing off. 
We definitely got the holiday season off to a good start.

Peppermint Bark Big Cookie

1/2 cup butter softened to room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 cup all purpose flour 
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup chopped peppermint bark (see note)
1/2 cup chopped toasted walnuts (optional)
1 pint peppermint stick ice cream 
Hot fudge sauce

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 12 inch cast iron pan with baking spray.

Cream together the butter, sugars and vanilla until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Add the egg and mix well.
Add the flour, baking soda and salt and mix on low until combined. Stir in the peppermint bark and nuts if using.
Spoon the dough into the prepared pan and spread evenly. Bake for 18 minutes.
Allow the cookie to cool for about 5 minutes. Top with the pint of ice cream and then spoon some hot fudge over the top. Serve immediately with spoons for all, clearly who would need a plate for this.

Note:
I did not have peppermint bark so I used 1/2 cup of chocolate chips and a cup of Andes brand peppermint crunch baking chips.
If you live in the Pacific Northwest, Snoqualamie Ice Cream Peppermint Stick Gelato will serve you well.





We Were Naive

My friend and I.
We thought these summers were endless. Summers filled with kayaks, piles of wet beach towels, giggles and whispers drifting upstairs from the basement, long walks, and late night campfires with both our families snuggled close.

A well loved backyard at the cabin

Our blissful summers by the lake were soon interrupted by camp counseling gigs, dropping kids off at unversity, summer internships, study abroad, and career changes.

All grown up. New Years Eve 2014.

I can't say that I begrudge our kids any moment of the story they are writing for their lives, BUT.
I'd like to turn back the clock.
I want a moment to memorize the sound of their collective laughter.
I want to freeze a snapshot (or two or twelve) of them playing, teasing, becoming siblings.
I want to go back and take advantage of those days that I thought would always be.

This summer took me off guard. But it is still good. Really good. The older kids caught up with each other while studying abroad, the youngers grabbed each other in between their summer comings and goings. I think it was a glimpse of what their adult friendships will look like.
And us parents? We spent a few evenings contemplating the looming empty nest.

Empty. Nest. Can I just say that the term "Empty Nest" conjures the image of champagne AND tissues. A totally celebratory weepfest.

Anyway...

One hot summer evening the twins dropped by with a bag of peaches from the over abundant tree on their property. They were perfectly ripe and smelled heavenly. I had planned to use them in a pie but the week got away from me, as did the peaches. They quickly became more suitable for jam. And what better way to preserve our summer memories than in a few jars of peach butter.


Lakepoint Place Peach Butter
adapted from Smitten Kitchen

4 pounds peaches, pitted, peeled and quartered
1 cup water
2 cups sugar
Juice of one lemon

Place peaches and water in a large, heavy pot. Bring to a simmer and cook until tender, about 10 minutes. Remove the peaches from heat and puree, I used an immersion blender. I made mine very smooth but I'll leave it up to you as to how you like your fruit butter.
Return the peach puree to the pot and add the sugar, and lemon juice. Bring this to a simmer/low boil and cook for 40 minutes. Stir frequently to prevent scorching.
Now, the peach butter is done when a wooden spoon leaves a clear trail when scraped across the bottom of the pan. IMPORTANT NOTE: I cooked my peach butter for an hour and a half and still did not achieve this. I gave up out of boredom and spooned it into jars and called it good. It's a bit on the thin side and could double as a sauce. All I can say is whatever.
Kept airtight in the fridge it should last you two weeks. If you want directions on how to can the jars see the original post on Smitten Kitchen.

One Day Soon....

Senior year. Senior. Year. 46 days until she graduates. I can't even.

This child who still holds my hand, snuggles in close, and whispers that I am her best friend is ready to fly. She is so very ready to fly.


I'm not ready to let go. Not yet. There is still so much to be said, to be taught, to experience. Have I made her understand how remarkable she is? She is brave, and a truth teller, and tender hearted.
So tender hearted.
She is GRACIOUS, and merciful. And... she can be a handful.
There is a reason we call her Le Petit Générale.

Bali Indonesia 2003

Her sister used to say that Morgy was just like the center of a cinnamon roll. Warm and soft, and squishy. If you had the pleasure of knowing her when she was a child you would remember her hands. Oh Lord, those hands. Little pillows of squishy goodness.

So I am grateful for these days. For early mornings when my family room is filled with her friends who have come for breakfast before school. For soft murmurs of them praying for each other. For snapchats, and texts, and a Gilmore Girl binge watching companion. I am even grateful for all the times she loses things and needs help to find them. Every mom knows it is nice when they still need you a little bit.

And while one day soon she will fly, we have some time left.

School Nurse Stories, My Messy Beautiful

Taking a break from cooking to bring you this. Me and my little blog are heading over to Glennon Melton's  Momastery to be a part of her Messy, Beautiful Warrior Project. To learn more about us click HERE , and to learn more about the New York Times Best Selling Memoir Carry On Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life, click Here

I'm a school nurse. Yes, the person who calls to tell you that your child fell off the monkey bars, bit another student, has a fever, or GOD FORBID, lice.

Yeah, we know all sorts of crazy happens after that phone call.

I approach any phone call home with more than a little trepidation. It doesn't matter the reason for my call, the response is always the same. I introduce myself. There is a brief moment of silence followed by a sharp intake of breath, and then you, slightly panicked, trying to play it cool: OHMYGOODNESSWHATHAPPENED!

Take it easy Tiger; maybe I'm just calling to get your cupcake recipe from the bake sale. Do we always have to assume the worst?

This is one of my favorites. I'm really fond of my long slender neck and slightly startled look.

As part of my job I get asked a lot of questions and I hear a lot of stories.
Questions.
And stories.
From YOUR children.

Lets just take a moment to ponder that.

Those characters of yours tell some whoppers that make me laugh until I need my inhaler.

As evidence, I present to you these little gems:

Student: Mrs. Donahue my mom asked me to tell all my teachers about my new diagnosis. I let them know that I have Leprosy.
Me: That's great! I'm proud of you for being so responsible! (I then spent the afternoon making urgent phone calls notifying his teachers that he had Epilepsy and not Leprosy. Worrisome yes, but you know, on a different level)

"Mrs. Donahue, I just violated myself in the bathroom." (After further questioning it was determined  he had only vomited, but kudos for putting that new English vocab word to use)

"Do you think I might have Parkinson's?" (No, I think you drank too much coffee.)

Student: I'm pretty sure I have Fattigoo.
Me: Hmmm. Can you spell that for me?
Student: f-a-t-i-g-u-e

"We just studied sexually transmitted diseases in class. Do you have any tranquilizers?" (Oh little lamb, lets call mom)

"Are you sure I'm not dying?" (Metaphysically or right now from a disease?)

"Mrs. Donahue, I think the carbuncle on my buttock popped." (I have no response for this.)

"Can you look to see if I have a tapeworm?" (No.) (Hell no.)

Do you see what I'm working with?

I call this one Rainbows and Ice Cream Cone, or Rainbows and Baby Jesus in a Manger from my heart to yours. I also adore that she spelled her name wrong and that there are googly eyes. The world would be a better place with more googly eyes.

But, its a two way street. I also have to ask a lot of questions and get the story behind what is going on. A carbuncle you say?  Tell me all about it. What exactly do you mean by "popped?" Like, running down your leg leakage or sticking to your underwear leakage?
Gather information, get the story, and make a plan. Don't roll your eyes, snicker, or gag. And NEVER looked surprised.
That's my job in a nutshell.

Over the years I have found two questions that are key to my job. What do you need, and tell me your story. What do you need right now? What do you need to get through class? What do you need to make it through today?

Sometimes though I need to close the door, silence my phone; sit down and say, "Tell me your story." I need to hear the story behind the stomachaches. I need to hear why you attended three different schools this year. Sometimes, sometimes I can only help after I have heard the story. Because at times the most appropriate treatment is not a Band-Aid or Tylenol. It is being heard. Sometime the healing can't start until the story is told.

And so I found myself the other day, sitting across the table from a very young mother and father. They were frightened. They were ashamed. They felt judged. They were crying deep ugly sobs. Their children had been removed from their home. They didn't know what would happen next.

I had worked with this young family for months, and in the end their lives derailed. I was conflicted in the most uncomfortable of ways. I felt as though I had somehow betrayed them. After all, aren't they are just broken people trying to find their way? On the other hand....I was so mad, my inner sense of justice yelled "They deserved this." But, I believe in GRACE, and I believe that God is in the relationship business, and the family business, and the healing business. So I put aside my frustration, and put the lid on my anger. I set down my notebook, capped my pen, silenced my phone and closed the door.
I grabbed a box of tissues and asked my question.

Tell me your story.

"Being heard is so close to being loved that for the average person, they are almost indistinguishable."
-David Augsburger




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