Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Take the Long Way Home: September Birthday Cake/Brown-Eyed Susan Cake

This weekend we traveled to Illinois to celebrate my dad’s birthday. This is such a beautiful time of year – the leaves are just beginning to change and the landscape seemed to glow all the way through Wisconsin. As Ryan steered us through the illuminated scenes, I stared out the window seeking inspiration from the autumn palette. Listening to the hum of the tires on the road and counting rows of pine trees in structured groves along the side of the highway, I realized that every ounce of the experience reminded me of my dad.

Some of my earliest memories are of cruising around in cars with my dad. He has always had an affinity for “cool” cars, especially the classics, and I can’t remember a time in my life when there wasn’t a car sitting in our driveway that made men salivate and my mom threaten to put a “for sale” sign on it. Much to my mom’s dismay, I inherited the car gene and was always intrigued by these vehicles. When I was little, I’m not sure if it was the car that was so fascinating or the fact that it meant uninterrupted time with my dad that was the appeal. But I’ll never forget the feeling of driving around town in my dad’s dark green Trans-Am with the windows down, letting the summer air swat my hair into tangled knots, listening to songs that will forever be embedded into my heart, and looking over and smiling at my dad. Ironically, the songs that are the most dear to me from that time are on Supertramp’s “Breakfast in America” album – how fitting that food is mentioned in the title.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Welcoming Autumn: Sugar Cookies

Last night at 10:09pm the seasons officially changed from summer to fall, although, around here it has actually felt like fall for the past few weeks. The temperatures have been dipping into the 40s at night – which would be great sleeping weather if my dog would stop stealing the extra blanket I threw on the bed! And the colors of the leaves are fading fast, creating a layer of camouflage across the back yard the color of a Golden Retriever, perfect for Murphy to hide in while sneaking up on his squirrel enemies and completing his mission of destroying every pinecone that falls in the yard. There are piles of pinecone carnage everywhere.  

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Delivering Bundles of Joy: Southern Fudge Cake & Strawberry Chiffon Pie

The other day, while wandering through the aisles of the grocery store with a grumbling stomach and rising level of agitation at not being able to find anything (they’re currently renovating so everything has been moved to a temporary location that the search into a game of “Where’s Waldo”), I started to pay more attention to the people around me rather than the food. Sure, there were those who were just as frustrated as I was that a ten minute “quick” run to the store had turned into a quest more daunting than Frodo’s trip to Mordor (my husband is a HUGE Lord of the Rings fan, I haven’t yet read the books, but the story still keeps finding its way into my life regardless). But then I noticed something else: the bleary-eyed, glazed-over look that seemed to have taken possession of so many of the faces around me. Many grabbed aimlessly for meals in a box or frozen bag that required little to no preparation. Others seemed totally disconnected from the experience all together and as their arms reached out to grab items and toss them into the cart, I wondered if they would even remember doing it when they got home and unloaded their bags.

After locating the few items I needed, I made my way back to the growing lines at the checkout. Instead of scanning tabloid headlines like I usually do to waste time in line, I began to contemplate how much thought we actually put into the food we make. So many of us are too worn out at the end of the day to care enough to put our few remaining scraps of energy into a well-planned, home cooked meal. To be honest, until I started this project, I didn’t pay as much attention to my weekly menu as I do now. Before, my husband and I planned meals that would provide enough leftovers for the rest of the week or, if we hadn’t had time to run to the store, we’d piece together the remnants of the freezer, fridge and pantry until it resembled something edible.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Saying Goodbye to Summer: August Birthday Cake/Banana Cake

The end of August is a bittersweet time in Minnesota. On one hand, the sudden appearance of school buses practicing their routes through neighborhood streets is a reminder that school, and the end of summer, are right around the corner. But on the other hand, we have the Minnesota State Fair to look forward to. A few years ago, my family came up to attend the State Fair for their very first time. They instantly fell in love and it has been a tradition ever since. And this year was no exception.

At the first hint of summer, my mom began asking when they’d release the list of new food items for the fair this year. It’s always exciting to see the unique ways people invent to prepare and serve food (did you ever think you could eat an entire Thanksgiving dinner in one glorious lump served on a stick? Well you can!) We had to wait for what seemed a lifetime, but soon enough the papers and news programs began to discuss the latest foods to be deep fried and skewered. The hot item this year was camel on a stick and it was instantly placed at the top of our “to-try” list. After weeks of collecting articles, mapping out where our favorites were being served and crossing the days off the calendar, my parents finally arrived and it was time to hit the fair. Here are the photos of everything we tried along with our reviews:

Friday, September 3, 2010

Trying to Beat the Heat: Fort Atkinson Gingerbread

August was a hot month in Minnesota. There were several times when our heat index rose to the 100+ degree level. On a couple of those weekends, I was shocked to hear that Ryan’s soccer league wasn’t cancelling games and my super-dedicated husband willingly played in that oppressive heat. At least he’s a goalie so he could hang back and watch as his teammates risked heat stroke for the thrill of the score. Murphy and I played it safe and stayed home, tucked inside in the cool comfort of central air.

I decided to dive into The Found Recipe Box in search of some relief from our summer heat wave. Ironically, I flipped right past all the frozen desserts, the puddings and the fruit recipes and for some reason, was drawn to the gingerbread. There are two recipes for gingerbread in the box and they have always piqued my interest. I’m a huge fan of gingerbread cookies, but have never tasted a loaf of actual gingerbread, so I chose the card for Fort Atkinson Gingerbread and began to gather ingredients.