Tuesday, May 27, 2008

My little baker

For the past 8 or 9 months, if you ask Ava what she wants to do when she grows up, she says "I want to make cakes for brides." OK, so it comes out more like "I wan make caykes for da bryeeds," but I digress. We have no idea where she came up with this since she hasn't been to too many weddings, and also hasn't had any wedding cake due to her allergies. I really think that part of it is genetic as I come from a long line of amazing cooks. My mother and great grandmother are/were serious threats in the kitchen, and my mom had me helping her in the kitchen as soon as I could hold onto a spoon. I've done the same with Ava, and not a day goes by where she doesn't ask me to help bake or cook dinner.

Obviously, she loves taste testing best, but she also loves to help add ingredients, stir, knead dough, and lately, watch the yeast bloom when we make bread (seriously, who would have thought that something so slow would keep my kid standing still for 10 straight minutes?!?!).

In the past few days, she spent some time at Nana's house where she helped decorate a wedding cake, and she helped us make a chocolate cake for us to snack on, brownies for a get together, 2 loaves of bread, pizza, and oatmeal. I have no doubt that when it comes time to fix dinner this afternoon, she's going to want to help me mix up the following to serve with our sausages and blueberry compote:

Custard Filled Cornbread
Recipe By : Marion Cunningham

1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup yellow cornmeal
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 eggs
3 tablespoons butter -- melted
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups milk
1 1/2 tablespoons white vinegar
1 cup heavy cream

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Butter an 8-inch square baking dish, and place it in the hot oven while you prepare the batter.Sift or stir together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder and baking soda. In a mixing bowl, beat the eggs and the melted butter until well-blended. Add the sugar, salt, milkand vinegar and beat well. Stir the dry ingredients into the egg mixture just until the batter is smooth.Pour the batter into the heated dish. Pour the heavy cream into the center of the batter. Do not stir.Check the cornbread after 45 minutes. It is done when the top becomes lightly browned.

I also have to post the recipe for the chocolate cake that she helped me make over the weekend because it's insanely good:

Easy Chocolate Cake
From Off the Shelf by Donna Hay

8 oz butter
1 1/2 cup brown sugar
3 eggs
2 cups AP flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1 cup sour cream or plain yogurt
8 oz dark chocolate, melted

5 oz dark chocolate
1/3 cup heavy cream

Heat oven to 325. Grease 9 inch round cake pan.
Cream butter and sugar together in an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time. Sift together flour, baking powder, and cocoa and add to the butter mixture. Add sour cream and chocolate and mix until just combined. Pour into cake pan and bake for 45-50 minutes. Cool in pan 10 minutes and then turn out onto a cooling rack.

When cake is cool, heat cream over a double boiler until warm. Remove from heat and stir in chocolate. When mixture is smooth, allow it to cool for 5-10 minutes, then pour over the top of the cake.

Ava's favorite part of making cakes:

Oh drat! There's batter on my fingers!

Where'd it go?!

The "bride's cake " she made with Nana:

Zebras and tigers and bears!

We took advantage of the nice weather on Saturday and made a trip to the zoo. It was crowded, and a lot of the zoo is under construction, but we had a great time. The animals were having fun in the warm weather, and the polar bears were playing in the water. We even saw the peacock, who put on quite a show when he saw a little boy dressed in red. He sqwacked and screeched and fanned out his beautiful tailfeathers. Ava really didn't seem to notice, but Emily was entranced.

We also gave Ava her first taste of a snow cone AND cotton candy. Between those and the birthday cake our friend Simone's birthday party later, she crashed hard around 7 pm, on the way home from Uncle Nick's birthday (PS - Happy 29th today, Uncle Nick!!).

Here comes the picture overload:
Ava watching the sea lions:
Mr Peacock and his amazing tailfeathers:
One of the zoo's beautiful blad eagles after the bird show:
Emily having her snack:
Ava having hers:
One of the zebras and a few gazelle:
Riding on Daddy's shoulders on the way out:

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Daily Bread

With the cost of fuel increasing the cost of, well, everything lately, I've been doing more scratch cooking and baking. I've recently decided that spending $4 on a loaf of bread (which this family of 4 goes through in 2 to 3 days) is crazy. So, I've been having fun experimenting with different recipes lately. I've decided that as convenient as our bread machine is (pour the ingredients in and walk away), I'm not crazy about the way the crust turns out - it's super crispy, which is fine for specialty breads, but not for everyday sandwich bread, in my opinion. So, I'm doing it all the old fashioned way.

Thanks to my friend Aviva, I've found a great challah recipe, which makes the best french toast ever. I also found this fabulous honey whole wheat recipe...yum!

Ava loves helping me bake, and thinks that while the bread making process is slow, it's fun. She actually stands and watches the yeast foam up, and she loves to punch down the dough, and help shape the loaves. She is a natural in the kitchen...must be genetic!

Challah with raisins...YUM!

Cinnamon toast made with bread fresh from the oven...does it get any better?

Emily chowing down on some toast:

Writing and Raining

Ava has been practicing her writing and does a pretty decent job on her name:

The "V" is upside down and the second "A" is only halfway done, but I think that's pretty good for a just turned 3 year old!
Here's a cute picture from the other day, where she was trying to catch rain drops on her tongue:

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Crazy? Or fun?

This morning I had the crazy/fun idea to let the girls fingerpaint with pudding. It actually turned out to be not nearly as messy as I thought it would be! They both had fun smooshing the pudding around their paper. Ava practiced her shapes and letters and Emily had fun with her first fingerpainting project. Of course, the best part for both of them was the finger licking (I *might* have done a bit myself...when no one was looking...):

Class is fun!

We've been going to some classes the past month, and Ava has had a blast. Now that she's 3, she can go to the classes without parent participation, which is fun because I get to just watch her, but also sad because I miss playing/dancing with her.

Here she is, all dressed up to go to ballet:

Here she is at her soccer class:


Bug day!

With the weather being back to not so nice, we've been doing more crafts while we're stuck inside. Ava had a lot of fun making a ladybug shaker and a caterpiller:

Painting her ladybug (and herself) red:

We put beans inside:

The finished ladybug:

Painting her caterpillar:

The finished caterpillar:

Ava shaking her ladybug:

Thursday, May 1, 2008

May Day

Earlier this week, my friend Kiersten had the sweet idea to have the older kids in our playgroup make May Day baskets to deliver on May Day. I remember making these in school - baskets filled with flowers and sweets to leave anonymously on someone's door to let them know that spring is coming.

Ava loves crafts and had so much fun glueing and taping her flowers together! We decided that we would deliver the baskets to friends and family today on the way to our Gymboree class.

Emily along for the ride:

Sadly, Gymboree didn't go well - Ava woke up way too early this morning and started melting down in class when a 10 month old baby wanted to play with the same bean bag as her.

It's rough being 3.

A nice long nap and a few stories in Mama's lap seemed to cure her (for now). My friend Karli posted this hilarious story on her blog and I had to relate - we've all had those days when taking the first train out of town seems like the best answer. Perhaps it is that oxytocin (which makes us forget the pain of childbirth) that also makes us forget these "precious" moments? I'd like to think that I will look back on the early years and only remember the cute times and not the tantrums. Here's hoping that I remember how excited Ava was to deliver her May Day baskets, and not the crazed (and kind of funny, now that I can take a step back) tantrum.