May 31, 2012

When the "letting go"-ing gets tough...

                                      ... the tough throw a party.
Zach's high school graduation represents a huge milestone for me. And when I pass huge milestones, I get very emotional. And when I get very emotional, I cry. Lots.
(I actually survived the ceremony, I really only lost it when he played trumpet for the last time as an NCS Crusader...)
(I "stole" this picture from his friend's facebook, 'cause I didn't have a good shot like this...
Zach's the only senior -- seated on the left behind the clarinets.)
Anyhow -- back to the party: Our very dear friends Sara & Bob have meant so much to our family. Sara has transported my boys to school for five years, now. Last spring Sara asked if I wished to have Zach's party in their backyard -- otherwise known as PARTY CENTRAL.
She even cleared off her mantel for some memorabilia...
I ordered two cakes from Costco. (They are the best! I also checked pricing from WalMart bakery as well as a couple local grocery chains & I would've been paying twice as much for inferior cake & icing, & absolutely none of that delicious mousse filling!)
Zach's girlfriend & her mom made dozens of black paper cones for popcorn. (I turned a 10-bottle wine rack on its side to hold the cones upright...)
Bob popped the corn in Sara's machine.
(mmmmmm -- they make it with olive oil & sea salt!)
My mom made some raspberry cookie bars & mini cherry cheesecakes.
(Not bad for a lady in a neck brace between surgeries & therapies...)
Zach's other grandma made a couple platters of fruit kabobs.

I baked large batches of salted caramel brownies, seven dozen whole-wheat chocolate chip cookies & a double recipe of Rice Krispies with white chocolate & cranberries treats.
We dispensed a couple gallons of iced tea & some very delicious blueberry lemonade.
(Zach finished off the last of the tea after the party...)
Unfortunately, I have few pictures. Once the people started arriving (some were half an hour early!) there was no time for camera snapping. Oh well! It was a wonderful evening.

May 23, 2012


...or NOT!

Tomorrow night's a big night for our oldest. 
It's a big night for our family. 
It's gonna be a tough night for me.
His gown might be pressed & ready for him to march down the aisle to "Pomp & Circumstance," but I don't have a mascara water-proof enough...

May 17, 2012

Fresh Strawberry Cheesecake Ice Cream

When I told my men the ingredients Kristen chose for May's Improv Challenge, and asked what we should create, our family was immediately divided into two camps. The hubs & the redhead called for cheesecake; while the shortest & the tallest clamored for ice cream. The resulting recipe is a product of our compromise. 
When it comes to homemade ice cream styles, I am most definitely a French custard-style as opposed to Philadelphia (egg-free) style. I love the rich smoothness that clings to my tongue when I eat ice cream. 
You might as well buy some ice milk, if you're not gonna go for the rich stuff! 
The trick for this recipe was to balance the ice cream flavor with a true cheesecake flavor. I debated making a cheesecake then stirring chunks of that into the finished ice cream -- but I didn't have that kind of time! (I did, however, take the time to bake some gluten-free graham crackers to stir into my dessert.) 

Several recipes I found utilized strawberry jam. ummmmm -- why? You just have got to have fresh ingredients, all the way around!
I used one pound of berries. (That comes out to about 3 cups, once you start cutting them up...) I sliced about half of them to macerate with a little sugar. The other half were quartered to stir in prior to putting the ice cream into the home freezer to "ripen".
(The hubs asked if I needed to define "macerate" for my readers...)

Next time I'll cut the "stir-in" berries a little finer.
The custard was simple to make. 
milk & eggs

I used corn starch instead of flour to make it gluten free

the liquid whisked in rather easily
The hardest part was standing patiently beside the stove stirring until it thickened.
(argh! finally!)
I didn't want an overly-sweet product -- the final flavor was perfect for me. (If you like your ice cream very sweet you should add more sugar.)

The lemon just adds that "authentic cheesecake flavor" to the mix. (Next time I might try limes from our tree.) I found that a medium-sized lemon gave me the portions of zest & juice that were perfect for my concoction.
(Can you see those lovely flecks of lemon? That's what made this taste so "cheesecakey"
Yes, my ice-cream maker is archaic! 

(Glad the boys were at school so I could lick the beaters myself...)

It did the job, though...
YES! It does taste as good as this looks!
Some people might desire a "pinker" product. It's an easy matter to add a few drops of food coloring (or a touch of beet juice) to achieve your desired shade. Attractive coloring is less important to me than optimal flavor, so I devoured inhaled licked the bowl enjoyed mine just the way it was.
(...& I didn't hear any complaints from the fellas...)

May 16, 2012

Proud of my boy!

It's tough being in the middle. Your older brother is getting lots of attention with the end of his high school career/start of college experience...
You turned 14 yesterday. You have already accomplished much in your life.
You have such a tender heart,
yet you've earned two black stripes on your obi and will be the first-ever under 16 black belt at your dojo next year.
I was so proud to listen to your junior high band play such advanced pieces.
I'm amazed, yet very pleased that you have earned straight-A's this year.
I'm delighted to be your mother.

May 15, 2012

Oh, no you di'n't!

alternately titled: Who 'Jacked the Wacky Cake?

In a perfect world, one can eat what one wishes without weight or allergy consequences. In this world, however, one just hopes to balance the "healthy" food with the "bad for you" food and trust your body will survive.
I needed to whip up a birthday cake for a special young man -- so I took an ordinary cake & made it quite "special" for him.

My two younger sons love to get their hands on the remnants of my iced lattes. Even better is to have their own made on Saturday mornings when I make theirs an iced mocha.
That was on my mind this morning while I was starting to stir up Alec's cake. I was making Wacky Cake, but decided to "kick-it-up-a-notch"!
I started off by using whole wheat (healthy!) flour. The rest of the ingredients stayed the same except for using a little extra cocoa. As I was getting the the water portion, my "what-if" brain decided flavored water would be just as good, so I used a cup of cold leftover morning coffee to pour over. 
Then I "what iffed" a cup of chocolate chips into the mix...
Verdict will be in later this evening.