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Friday, July 31, 2009

Flavor of the Month - Pie.... Blueberry Pie, that is.

Bake at 350


This is not the best post I'll ever do for Bake at 350's Flavor of the Month, but it will get the job done this month.

I have been planning to make Simply Recipes' Blueberry Pie for the Flavor of the Month for quite a while because I had never made a blueberry pie before. But, I just hadn't had an occasion to make it.

I even tweeted last week that "I really need a reason to make a blueberry pie. Really."

The responses I got ranged from "Why do you need a reason?" to "Blueberry ends in -y and Thursday ends in -y. Sounds like a good reason to me."

Fair enough.

But I finally found an occasion. My parents will be at my house tomorrow, so we'll have someone to share the pie with. Because what is the use in baking if you have nobody to share with.

So, here I am at 11:45 pm on the last day of the month when Bridget is hosting Flavor of the Month. I've just taken this beautiful pie out of the oven and haven't even tasted it yet.









Again, I used the recipe I found at Simply Recipes except for the crust. I used my favorite pie crust from Cook's Illustrated. I'll have to share that recipe later.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Our night with the Ringling Bros.

The night that we've been looking forward to for so long was finally here.

The circus.

Here. I'll let this summarize for you...



So Nathan said he liked the motorcycles.... not surprising. What was surprising was now they were not as loud as Mike and I had remembered them. Not at all scary for his sensitive little ears. Here's a little bit of what we saw:



Did you count them? SEVEN! Pretty amazing.

Sarah said she liked the tigers. Honestly, I kept getting video because it felt like a train wreck about to happen. I just knew I was going to catch a "mauling" on video and have me sumthin' to sell... but alas, no. They were pretty amazing, though.



And I know I said my favorite thing was also the tigers, but I was put on the spot. I can't think under that kind of pressure.

I'd like to revise my earlier statement, though, and say my favorite was really the pre-show time down on the floor. It is SO worth it to get there early to do it. For starters, I was in kind of a cruddy mood all day and especially on the noisy train ride on our way there. But we hit that floor and it completely turned around. There's nothing like a performing clown to put a smile on your face, no matter what your age.

It is also so interactive for the kids to see the performers up close and even participate a little.

We can't pass up a chance at a picture on a motorcycle...



They had some dress up clothes to try on...



My little "strong" man...



There are a lot of things that are different from the last time I remember going. But wonder and awe of a child under the big top has not changed. Both of the kids were mesmerized. I am so thankful that we had the opportunity to go while they are that the ages that they are. It was perfect.

And I am so thankful that I get to send one of you, my awesome readers and friends, to the Fort Worth show on August 12th. So, without further ado...

Random Integer Generator
Here are your random numbers:
5
Timestamp: 2009-07-30 05:55:12 UTC


So, from the list I put together, omitting those who left comments & didn't want to be in the drawing, the winner is Christi!!! I know you and your boys will have a ball, Christi.

Don't forget, the Dallas show runs from now until Sunday, August 9th and then the Fort Worth show goes from August 12th-16th. You can get 4 tickets for $44 (with additional tickets being $11 each) using the coupon code *MOM* at http://www.ticketmaster.com/.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Friendly Reminder...

Just a friendly reminder that my giveaway for 4 tickets to the Fort Worth opening night show of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey "Over the Top" show on August 12th ends tonight at midnight.

Go here to leave a comment to enter. There is also a coupon code for 4 tickets for $44. Check it out!

We are headed to the show in Dallas tonight. I will be tweeting throughout the evening and will post about it tomorrow along with the winners.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Foodie Friday - Cornbread Throwdown (BBA Challenge #10)

This week’s bread in the Bread Baker’s Apprentice challenge was cornbread. Now this… this is my kind of bread. No window “pain” test to pass. Just mix and go. And I was very interested to try Mr. Reinhart’s cornbread recipe since I found a recipe several years ago that my family and I really like in one of my trusty Cook’s Illustrated issues (January/February 2005).

Several weeks ago I read another post that compared a BBA recipe to one out of Cook’s (I would give a link here if I remembered who it was, but I don’t), and I think that is what gave me the inspiration to have a ”Cornbread Throwdown” (to borrow from Bobby Flay) between the two cornbread recipes.




My hypothesis was that the BBA cornbread would be the winner because it is topped with bacon and in our household it pretty well holds true that “If eating and cooking with bacon is wrong, we don’t want to be right.”

As you can see the basic ingredients for each are the same except for the bacon in the BBA cornbread (left) and the sharp cheddar cheese in the Cook’s cornbread (right).









One of the main differences between the two, though, is that the BBA recipe technically takes two days to make as you are to soak coarse cornmeal (polenta) in buttermilk overnight. The Cook’s recipe uses regular fine ground cornmeal and there is no soaking before hand. So one of the main questions in my mind was, “Is this bread worth taking two days to make?”

Confession: I forgot to put mine in to soak the night before, but I did it first thing in the morning and didn’t make it until that evening. It still soaked for about 7 hours, though.

I also need to note here that while both recipes call for a cake pan of some kind, I cooked both in my cast iron skillet because in my OH so humble opinion, there is absolutely NO other way to cook cornbread. I guess that’s my southern coming out, huh?









The BBA cornbread was first. The completed batter seemed fairly thin to me, like a cake batter. At 350ºF in the oven, it was will pretty well still liquid at the 30 minute mark that the recipe indicated. I know that my oven must be off a little because everything I bake takes a little longer than recipes indicate. But one thing that was handy was having the internal temperature of doneness. That let me know how far away from done we were. It ended up taking a total of around 40 minutes to bake in my oven.







The Cook’s batter was much thicker and lumpier, like a muffin batter. It cooks at 400ºF and took right at 25 minutes.









We had dinner and tried each with our meal. The verdict?



There you have it. The one with the cheese = we like the Cook’s Illustrated recipe best.

What was the difference?

For me, the BBA recipe was wetter and denser than the Cook’s Illustrated recipe. Later as I looked back, I realized that the BBA recipe called for twice as much buttermilk while not calling for a proportionately higher amount of flour/cornmeal.

The BBA recipe also added twice as much sugar plus honey. That makes for some sweet cornbread. I have always enjoyed sweet cornbread, but on this particular day, the more savory taste of the Cook's version with the cheese on top suited our tastes better.

Another difference that I recognized between the recipes was that the BBA recipe has you add 2 ½ cups of whole kernel corn right into the batter. The Cook’s recipe calls for ¾ cup (I usually go with closer to 1 cup) and it is just slightly processed in the food processor to break it up a bit. The whole kernels of the BBA recipe seemed to sink to the bottom and I wasn’t crazy about the disruption in the bread’s texture with the whole kernels. I preferred the broken up corn of the Cook’s recipe.





I have heard others say this, but there was a slightly strange taste initially with the BBA recipe. I’m not sure if, like others have thought, that it was the baking powder or what, but certainly, 1 ½ TABLEspoons of baking powder seemed like an awful lot to me. Could it have been a misprint? Should it be 1 ½ TEAspoons?



Overall Impressions:

Soaking the coarse cornmeal (polenta) was not a big deal and didn’t add any additional complexity to this recipe. It’s a fairly simple recipe and the bacon is a nice touch.

Would I make it again? At this point, no. Although, my man suggested I put some bacon in the Cook’s recipe.



In this post: Cheddar Cornbread

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Let's go to the hop...

Intro for my sweet regular readers~

So going on right now in Chicago is this little thing of a conference known as BlogHer. And there are some of us who are not able to go. SO, we're banding together and entertaining ourselves both on our blogs and on Twitter.

My friend Lisa at Stop and Smell the Chocolates and I are hosting a twitter chat session that we're calling #pityparty09. Our first session was this evening and it was tons of fun. We'll meet again on Saturday at noon (central time).

Also, Robin at Pensieve is hosting a BlogHop and Amanda at Garibay Soup is hosting BlogNerd so that we can all visit one another. I'm all about that.

So, now, I'm supposed to introduce myself~

I'm Donna and this is my blog, Way More Homemade. I started blogging almost 2 years ago under a different title at first just to help my parents who are on a two year mission to South Asia keep up with my family. The whole thing just kind of took on a life of its own from there.

These days, you'll find me talking about my faith, my family, and certainly about food.

My Faith: I am a Bible believing Christian who is striving to trust God. And it's hard for me. I attend Bible Study Fellowship and also enjoy hearing Beth Moore teach. (BTW, I get to see Mrs. Moore at a Wednesdays with Beth on Life Today taping on Friday and Saturday. You can see what happened the last time I went on this post.)

My Family: I am very happily married to my man (Mike) and we have two children: Sarah/the princess (8) and Nathan/little man (4). I have also had two miscarriages and I can't talk about my family without the mention of them. We have two dogs: Miniature Dachshund, Frankie; and Pembroke Welsh Corgi, Gus.

My Food: I love to cook and bake from scratch and I like to write about it as well. I have a Recipe Blog where I share some of my favorite recipes. I am also currently participating in the Bread Baker's Apprentice challenge with over 200 other people all over the world. See my BBA posts here.

So, that's me and my blog in a very small nutshell. Feel free to click on my "About" and "Favorites" tabs at the top of the page. Enjoy your blog hopping!!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Living Life - Ringling Bros. Giveaway

Life.

It's meant to be lived. And that's what I'm doing right now.

I am in a period of where I am feeling the need to really focus on my family and not miss a moment with them.

For me, that is involving shutting the door on several activities that I have historically been involved in or in leadership positions for. In other words, believe it or not, I am backing off of things at church like choir and lessening my role in others like VBS. These are two things I have truly loved, but my mind has been in a different place as of late.

I have recently felt so overwhelmed by things I need to think about that just adding something simple like a Wednesday night rehearsal just seems to put me over the edge. And when something becomes "just another thing on my calendar," it's time for me to back off and evaluate what I'm involved in.

So, I'm doing stuff with my man and my kids and I'm living life and waiting on God to reveal my next steps. I hope that it won't be a long wait. But wait, I shall.

And while I'm waiting, we're going to the circus... you wanna come, too?


Next week, we are looking forward to going to opening night of the Ringling Bros. "Over the Top" show when it opens in Dallas on July 29th.

It's been several years since I have been to the circus and I can't remember whether we have ever taken Sarah... my memory is good enough that I know that Nathan has never been. But I can't wait to see the looks on their faces when they see clowns, and horses, and dogs doing tricks, and elephants, and tigers, and acrobats, and motorcycles... OH the motorcycles.

Does anyone have some ear-muffs we can borrow for poor little Nathan?

And I'm really looking forward to going to the Pre-Show this year that starts an hour ahead of time. I'm hoping that this gets Nathan acquainted enough with what will happen that he won't get scared during the show itself.

So this week, I want to give you the opportunity to live some life with your family.

I have been given the opportunity to give away 4 tickets to the Fort Worth show that begins August 12th. For many of you, this could be a last little hurrah before school starts.

"Why," you may ask yourself, "is she going to the Dallas show and giving away tickets to the Fort Worth show?"

Well, I'll tell you. For one thing, we thought it would be fun to take Nathan on the train down to the American Airlines Center and for another thing, our school starts on August 11th. So the Fort Worth show was kind of out for us as far as scheduling goes.

But I know most of you, my local friends, might prefer going to the Fort Worth show, thus those are the tickets I am giving away.

And as a special perk for you that may go to the Fort Worth show, there in an Animal Open House that begins 1 1/2 hours before show time. I think that would just be stinkin' cool to go see.

So here are the details:

4 Tickets for the August 12th (7:30 pm) Ringling Bros. "Over the Top" show. (Tickets will be held at will call with your name on them.)

How to enter:

Leave a comment (including an email address) and tell me what you loved about the circus when you were a kid (if you went) or what you are most looking forward to seeing at the circus.

You may leave an additional comment each for a chance to win if you:

-Tweet this post. (Include @waymorehomemade so that I see it.)

-Post a link to this post on your Facebook page. (Friend me so that I see it. You can find me using my waymorehomemade at yahoo dot com email address. Just send me a note telling me you are from the blog.)

Comments will remain open until midnight (Central Daylight Time) on July 29th, which is the day that we go to the show in Dallas. (You can follow me on Twitter and see how our trip goes as I'll be live tweeting the event that evening.) I will announce the winner on July 30th using the random number generator at random.org.

And if you'd like to go to the Dallas or Fort Worth shows (and don't win any tickets) you can go to http://www.ticketmaster.com/ and order tickets using the coupon code "MOM" and get 4 tickets for $44.

(I looked at the ticket prices and the cheapest regular tickets cost $15/each, so this coupon code saves you $16!!! A great deal, if you ask me.)

So, go. Go live some life with your family.

And what better way to have some fun with them than to go to "Over the Top"!

(And let your kids get some cotton candy while you're at it... they're only kids once, you know.)

Monday, July 20, 2009

Mama Braggin' Monday - Camp

Mondays are the day of the week that I shamelessly brag on my kids here on the blog. Join me if you like. I'd love to see what awesome things your kids are up to. I am no longer adding the Mr. Linky, but please leave a comment and brag on your kids. Or you can brag on mine. Either way.

~~~

Several weeks ago, Sarah went to camp out in East Texas called Rockin' C Ranch. It's a small Christian camp and this is her 2nd year for overnight camp, but her 3rd year at the camp including the year she went to day-camp. For overnight camp, we drop her off on Sunday afternoon and pick her up on Friday evening.



Since it is a working ranch as well as a camp, they do all kinds of things that she doesn't get to do here in the city. They have daily chores which includes feeding the chickens and getting eggs for breakfast. There is horseback riding (she got up to a gallop this year), archery, air rifles (bb guns), fishing, kayaking, and lots of swimming.

She had a wonderful time again this year and had plenty to tell when we picked her up on that Friday.

One story was of another girl who was a little bossy, as she described it. Apparently to the point of hurting Sarah's feelings enough to make her cry one day. She said that one of the counselors talked to the girl and then said, "She just has a hard heart."

Mike and I couldn't help but smile at hearing her say that. I had to explain that, in life, we encounter a lot of people that have hard hearts and the best thing we can do is to pray for God to soften their hearts. She then asked, "Are we having pizza for dinner?"

Right.

*grin*

She said she got a little homesick but overall, had a good time. I'm just proud that I got two, yes TWO, written and mailed communications from her while she was gone.

WOW.

What about you? Have your kids gone to any camps or anything this summer?

Friday, July 17, 2009

Foodie Friday - Do you know the Muffin Man?

A couple of weeks ago we went out to a little family get together that we call "The Cousins' Birthday Party." Basically it's a chance for us as a family to celebrate all the kids' birthdays (all eight of them) at once.

This year we were doing a fish fry and swim party. Mmmm... it doesn't get a whole lot better than that, let me just tell you.

So we got there and it was still going to be a little while before lunch was ready. Nathan got his eye fixed on some muffins that my sister had made that morning and just had to have him one.

He. Devoured. It.

And another one.

I think we had to cut him off.

I had one, too. They were YUM!

They had this wonderfully light texture and they were sweet... but not overly so. Just the right amount of sweet.

So later on that following week, I got a hankerin' for muffins again. Only I decided that I'd change it up a bit. I was going to use some blackberries that I had and make blackberry muffins.

I found a recipe that was unlike anything I had tried before and decided to give it a shot.

In short... FAIL.

The muffins themselves turned out I think exactly how they should have. But it just didn't work for us.

1. The recipe incorporated cornmeal which I originally thought might be interesting. Nope. Not for me.

2. Blackberries just don't work in muffins. Too many seeds.

So not only did I have the strange sensation of gritty cornmeal in my muffins, I had seeds that I was forever picking out of my molars. It didn't make for attractive muffin eating, I'll say that for sure.

My mind kept going back to those fluffy muffins my sister had made and I knew what I had to do.

I called her on her birthday, forgot to wish her a happy birthday and asked her for her recipe... yeah, my priorities are spot on.

She informed me that the recipe came from someone in her husband's family and she emailed it to me.

As you'll see, it's a different method than you might be accustomed to for muffins. It still incorporates the "muffin method" of mixing wet ingredients into dry, but you add the butter in a different way.

I'll stop there and you can see the recipe for yourself (with my changes because I can't leave anything alone) here and on the recipe blog for step by step photos.

Makes 12 muffins

Ingredients:
2 cups flour
3/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 stick butter, cool room temperature
1 cup buttermilk cool room temperature*
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups blueberries**

* Milk may be substituted for buttermilk.
** Should be fresh blueberries that have been frozen with no sugar added.

You will also need:
Large bowl
Spatula/spoonula
Muffin pan
Baking liners (optional)
1 extra teaspoon (or so) of flour

Method:
Preheat oven to 425 F. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. Work room temperature butter into dry ingredients using fingers until it makes various sized “pebbles”. Gently toss frozen blueberries with a teaspoon or so of flour to coat. Form a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and add wet ingredients. Gently begin folding together and gently fold in blueberries at the same time. Do not over-mix as the dough should remain rather lumpy. Spoon into 12 muffin cups and bake at 425 F for 20-25 minutes.



I made them this week and we have now renamed my son The Muffin Man. I think he ate one for breakfast and as a snack. He would have had one for dinner if we would have allowed it.

So tell me, have you tried something new only to taste it and think, "Nope, not for me"? Or do you have a favorite blueberry muffin recipe? I'd love to hear about anything muffin today.

In this post: Blueberry Muffins

Thursday, July 16, 2009

And we thank God for air conditioning

The summer is just moving right along in our house. The heat is taking its toll, though. With over 100ºF days, we just simply don’t venture outside unless it is before 9 am or after 7 pm.

I had a really wonderful day off from work yesterday. I didn’t go anywhere. The kids and I stayed home and they played while I did some much needed chores around the house.

Have I ever mentioned how much I hate cleaning bathrooms? I guess it would help if I did it more often than once a year.

Oh, I kid. I clean them at least twice a year whether they need it or not.

But overall the summer is going fine around here. I am just finding myself in a bit of a dry land, spiritually, though.

A friend and I had good intentions of doing a Bible study this summer and that has never really taken off, although I am still hopeful that it might. I’m also in a bad habit of going to bed late and then not waking up in time to do a quiet time devotional every single morning. And all of the other stuff that is going on in life and in my head is just starting to take a toll, just like the summer heat, and I am drying out.

So here I am at 7 am, having read Psalm 119:89-96 for my quiet time this morning and asking that the Lord continue to sustain me as he sustains the earth and causes it to endure (vs. 90). I know He will and I know that I will come out of this season of dryness “like a well-watered garden and like a spring whose waters never fail” (Isaiah 58:11).

And speaking of sun-scorched land (Isaiah 58:11), you should look out my window right now.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

1st & 15th Scripture Memory

Romans 12:2 (NIV)


"Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will."

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

10 Things about Destin, Florida

Just a few short weeks ago, our little family went on a big vacation to Destin, Florida. You can read about how interesting our trip was here and here.

But today, I just want to share with you ten things we have learned about Destin. Some of these tips are businesses that we have patronized, and others are just tips for your handy knowledge that we have learned in our visits to Destin over the last couple of years. I hope this information is helpful to you.

1. Crystal Beach / Scenic Highway 98
The first year we went to Destin was about 6 years ago when my daughter was 2 and we traveled with my whole family (8 adults + 7 children at the time). My oldest sister had been several times before that with her family. She advised all of us about where to stay and since that trip, I’ve not strayed from that advice. Yes, I understand that you might be able to save some money on lodging if you stay a street or two away from the beach, and I suppose that’s your prerogative. However, it’s my opinion that if I am going to the beach, I want to stay so that I can just walk out my door and step onto the beach. Besides, when travelling with small children, gathering yourself up to leave the house is hard enough, but imagine dragging all your gear a couple of blocks to a public beach access point. And especially this year is was nice to be able to go back to the condo and take short breaks without much to-do. The Crystal beach area long Scenic Highway 98 fits the bill as the condos are low rise (only 3-6 stories tall) and therefore, even in the busiest of times, there are not as many people on your particular stretch of beach to deal with as you try to keep up with your small children. It’s all very low key and family oriented. Too see it on a map, go here.

2. Crystal Sands
Specifically this year we stayed in a condo at the Crystal Sands. Our condo was beautifully decorated and the facilities were very nice. I know that the beach is an every changing thing so what I tell your right now, might not hold true later, but I loved our little stretch of beach this year. It was shallow out quite a ways so that in the evenings when the tide had gone out a bit, there was a wonderful flat shallow area for little ones to play and great tidal pools perfect for hunting sea creatures. There was also the remains of an old pier right outside of our condo and it gave our daughter a perfect visual barrier of what to not pass as she was riding her boogie board and drifting with the tide.

3. Destin Ice Seafood Market
I have gone several times to get shrimp at this market. The shrimp I have gotten there has been very good and the folks behind the counter are all very nice and patient with me as I stand there and carefully ponder how much shrimp I need to buy. Visit them at http://www.destinice.com/.

4. Little Nemo Fishing Boat
We went on a family oriented cruise and fishing trip on the Little Nemo and it was just our speed. With our condo, we got a free adult and child and then we paid $30 each for the rest of us. We cruised around the harbor for a while and all the kids who wanted to got a chance to drive the boat. We headed on out and did some dolphin spotting and watching and then let down our hooks to do some bait fishing. They let out a couple of troll lines to see if we could hook something bigger and while we did not on our trip, it’s my understanding that if something bigger is hooked, all the kids get a chance to reel it in for a bit if they choose. While an accomplished fisherman might be disappointed in such a trip, it is perfect for the child that you want to introduce to fishing. The boat captain was incredibly nice and great with the kids as were the crew. It was a very relaxed, kid friendly atmosphere. Save your money & do this instead of a dolphin cruise. However, I would caution against taking any child less than say, about 3 years old. We took our own life jackets for the kids and I was glad we did so that they were handy and I could just have Nathan wear his most of the time. It made this mama feel a little more at ease. Pack a lunch that can be easily eaten and lots of water and other drinks. And a camera for lots of pictures.

As a side note, it had rained the night before we went which cooled things off a bit. There was so much sea life activity that it was pretty exciting for us. We saw many dolphins and several mama/calf pairs about. We also saw a Spotted Eagle Ray that swam right up next to the boat where we were. I saw what the captain told me were Spinner Sharks jumping out of the water and spinning around. Here's a cool Spinner Shark video that I thought I'd share with y'all.

5. The Back Porch
We have eaten several times at The Back Porch. It’s a good beach side restaurant with a playground in the sand on the beach for the kids while you wait and inside or outdoor dining. All the food I’ve had there has been very good. Be prepared for a bit of a wait as it’s fairly popular.

6. Dewey Destin
We ate at a new place this year on recommendation from someone we met. It’s supposedly where a lot of locals go. Dewey Destin is a little scary looking and a bit of a “hole in the wall” kind of joint, but it’s pretty good. They serve mostly local seafood, so if you have your heart set on something, like, say, Blue Crab... you'll want to go early. When they run out of something, that's it. And keep in mind, also, that the kitchen closes at 8:30 pm.

Our meal there this year was okay. It wasn't fantastic and it wasn't awful. I don't know that we will necessarily go back again next year. We only allow ourselves one meal out at a restaurant when we go and this just didn't do it for us enough to draw us back. Mostly because we like to let our kids play on the beach during the evening and we don't want to be rushed to get someplace for dinner before they run out of x, y, or z.


7. Emerald Coast Scuba
The incredibly nice and helpful staff at Emerald Coast Scuba has outfitted our family with snorkel gear for the last couple of years. They have sizes to fit everyone down to my son when he was 3 years old. I would suggest that you rent your gear in the late afternoon and plan to return it the following afternoon/evening. They also offer snorkel & dive trips which I’m sure are great, but with our little kids, we haven’t been convinced that going on an all day excursion was the best option for us. Oh, and one of the ladies there makes some cute jewelry that she sells in their dive shop.

8. Norriego Pointe Public Beach Access
Gulf Shore Drive dead ends into the parking for the public beach access for Norriego Pointe. There are three coves along some rocky barriers that are really good for snorkeling, especially for small children. Just be prepared for a little bit of a walk. Little bit is an understatement, actually. Especially when dealing with young children. It will feel like you are walking across the Sahara dessert. My man suggested that you might consider some kind of sled for pulling gear and small children across to the beaches… not a bad idea, actually.

The coves are protected and free of a lot of the wave action that you might get at other beaches. There is one beach that serves as the main beach for the Emerald something or other hotel but there are other coves and beaches to choose from. Take an umbrella or some kind of shade as the umbrellas that are there are for the hotel patrons. Take frozen peas to feed the fish & they will gather around like crazy. Being next to the harbor, you also have the added excitement of seeing the boats come and go.

Pack a lunch and plenty of drinks and water. Also take some cash with you for the ice cream boat. Yes, you read that right. Ice Cream BOAT. Complete with music and everything. Plan on about $3 per ice cream treat.


9. Wal-Mart on Saturday night
Everyone goes to Wal-Mart to stock their condo fridge and pantry. And it seems that everyone does so on Saturday night. You gotta do what you gotta do, so don’t avoid it. Just go understanding that it will look much like the day after Thanksgiving. Have 2 people go. Get some of your larger items out of the way and into the basket then have one person stand in line with the basket while the other person continues to run around the store gathering smaller things. Go with a list, stay on task and you can probably get in and out of there in 1 to 1 ½ hours (plan on about 45 minutes in line to check out).


10. Sand Castle Lessons at Village of Baytowne Warf
We saw this great listing in a local area guidebook that there were sandcastle building demonstrations and lessons and we thought it would be a nice way to spend one afternoon.

FAIL!

Other than finding Blue Bell Ice Cream and a playground with a digger for Nathan to play with, we were completely disappointed. The guidebook listed times from 10 am to 6 pm. However the Village of Baytowne Warf website that I’m just now looking at says 7-9 pm. Lesson learned. If you have “google” ability, then look up the attraction and check times on their site. Don’t trust even the local guide books.

However, I will say that the Village of Baytowne Warf looks like it would be a wonderful place to spend an evening. It was just a bit much to take heat wise in the middle of the day. Which is probably why the sandcastle thing is scheduled for the evenings.... Ah-hah, it's all making sense, now.


Do you have any tips about Destin that you would like to share? Please do so in the comments. I'd love to hear from your knowledge for future reference.

This post is part of a couple of carnivals:

Oh Amanda's "Top Ten Tuesday"
Musings of a Housewife's "What I learned this week"

Monday, July 13, 2009

BBA Challenge #9 - Cinnamon Raisin Bread

This week's bread was Cinnamon Raisin Bread.

Oh. My. Stars.

I wonder if I will tire of how good all of these breads are... or if I will encounter one that I don't love.

I encountered some difficulty simply because I was a bone-head and forgot to add the buttermilk at the right time. I kept thinking, "Man, this dough is stiff," and added water. And then I saw that lonely measuring cup of buttermilk sitting on the counter top.

OOPS!

But it was nothing that a bit of mixing and adding flour back in to account for the water that I had added couldn't fix.

I'd say, from the looks of it, we recovered nicely.





I love having an office to go to. It makes for a great place to have people taste test your creations and it's an awfully easy place to get rid of extras. The recipe made two loaves. There is no reason why I would need that much cinnamon raisin bread sitting around the house when one of my children doesn't even like raisins and won't eat it.

(In case you're doing the math, that leaves 3 of us to potentially eat 2 loaves, and one of those is a four year old who can be finicky to say the least, bringing us to likely two people for two loaves. I don't need to eat my very own loaf of cinnamon raisin bread, people. I just don't.)

The truth is that this Bread Baker's Apprentice challenge, and all my baking in general, has been a great way to bribe people at work to like me. Or dislike me because they all seem to be starting a diet every day that I bring something to share.

Examine the evidence.

I arrive at work at about 9 am and place the full loaf of Cinnamon Raisin Bread on the table in the kitchen (which is across from my office and if you follow my days on twitter at all, you know that I hear some interesting conversations in there).


On Mondays we have staff meeting for a good bit of the morning. I checked on our little stash at noon after staff meeting. It had already dwindled quite a bit.


Then comes the afternoon munchies and at 4 o'clock, there was only a little bit left.


At about 5 o'clock, a guy from the other side of the office pokes his head in to my area and informs me that he is eating his third piece and that, obviously, he loved it. It was gone.



Overall Impressions:

An easy bread with a good texture. I might add a bit more cinnamon to the dough next time. And I know that the butter and cinnamon on top was an option that Mr. Reinhart offered but... Oh MY... it should not be optional.

Would I make this bread again? Absolutely. Maybe tomorrow.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Foodie Friday - Fresh Tomatoes and Pasta

Earlier this spring, as a cost cutting measure and to have a fun project with the kids, we decided that we would plant a small vegetable garden. Not anything real big and not a lot of different vegetables because we are, in fact, novices at the gardening thing. We basically planted some tomatoes, peppers and strawberries.

So far, the only thing that has produced anything for us is the tomatoes. And if you know me very well, you know that it just fine. I love me some fresh sweet summer tomatoes.

As I was working in the garden on day, watering, weeding and spraying with organic insect “stuff,” I got a whiff of a very familiar smell. The tomato plant smell.





If you have ever grown a home garden, you know that a tomato plant has a very distinct smell. It is hard to describe because it doesn’t smell like tomato. It smells like a tomato plant. While it is not what I would normally consider a pleasant smell, it was pleasant to smell it in that it took me back in time. To a simpler time.

My father had a vegetable garden every year in the back area of our back yard where he planted all manner of vegetables from tomatoes, to peppers, to onions and Lord only knows what else. I so distinctly remember that tomato plant smell from the vegetable gardens of my childhood. I remember I couldn’t stand it then because I felt like I was the weird one with the farm in her backyard. But now, as I smell that smell, I am transported back to my dad’s vegetable garden.

As I pondered this I began to think of how we can associate a lot of memories with smells and with food. Have you noticed that? Certain foods will remind me of people or situations. Homemade rolls remind me of being at my Nana's house at the holidays, as does chocolate meringue pie. Ribs always remind me of Christmas day and playing Monopoly until late in the night with my parents and sisters. The smell of the coast reminds me of many a spring break that we spent fishing off the Texas coast.

So many wonderful memories. I certainly hope that my children are making the same kinds of memories.

But back to tomatoes...

In our tomato growing journey we’ve learned a little about gardening. For one thing I’ve learned to identify a certain insect that could be extremely detrimental to a tomato plant. The tomato hornworm.


I found this little guy on my tomato plant not far from some small tomatoes that had been munched on. I quickly found out that his intentions were less than honorable and that he needed to be dealt with appropriately…. and quickly.



Despite all the odds, attacks of hornworms and Texas heat, we had several tomatoes ripen all at the same time. I was so excited, I had to email a picture of this, our first tomato, to my dad.



With so many fresh tomatoes sitting around, I felt it was the perfect opportunity for me to make one of my favorite dishes, Fresh Tomato Pasta .

This is a wonderful and inexpensive meal as most of it came straight from my garden between the tomatoes and my herb garden that I have grown for several years, now.

4 medium size fresh tomatoes
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh basil (chopped)
1 tablespoon fresh oregano (chopped)
1 tablespoon fresh flat leaf parsley (chopped)
1 tablespoon fresh garlic chives (chopped)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Fresh ground pepper to taste
1 can black beans (rinsed and drained)
Pasta of choice (cooked to taste)

Dice tomatoes and prepare all herbs. Combine everything in a bowl, cover and allow to sit at room temperature for at least one hour (more is better, in my opinion).

Serve over prepared pasta.

We usually serve it with some grilled chicken, but it is certainly not necessary.



I'd like to say that this was a dish that also takes me back to my childhood, but it is not. Our fresh tomatoes were served mostly alone as a fresh side to a meal or as a condiment for hamburgers or sandwiches. But, I hope that it is a dish that my children remember when they begin planting gardens of their own and have some of their first fresh tomatoes.

And I do hope that they remember that tomato plant smell and fondly recall the summers of their youth.

Is there a particular food smell or dish that takes you back to another time in your life? Tell us about it in the comments.

In this post: Fresh Tomato Pasta

If you liked this post, you might also like a post about my Herb Garden and a Greek Salad recipe.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Because some randomness is good at times.

If I seem a little absent this week it's because... well... I am.

July is here and it's the one month a year that I seriously get into a sporting event (besides Aggie football in September-November). Yes, the Tour de France has begun and my watching of it has seriously cut into any blogging time I have in the evenings, mornings, mid-day... you get the picture. I've been looking forward to these three weeks for quite some time now and it has been a fun race to watch so far. If you didn't know, Lance Armstrong is out of retirement and has rejoined the Tour this year and is on an excellent team. I may just have to break down and finally make some croissants in honor of the Tour for the 21st stage in Paris. We'll see how ambitious I feel come the end of July.

This week is also interesting because my girl is at camp all week. We took her out to camp on Sunday afternoon and go to pick her up Friday evening. I've been seeing some pictures online and can tell that she is having a good time fishing, kayaking and doing daily ranch chores.

This is her second year to go for overnight camp but something is different this year. I actually got a letter from her. A real life snail-mail letter. I think I'm going to frame it. Last year I sent her with several pre-addressed stamped envelopes and paper and got a big fat nuthin'. So imagine my surprise when we saw a letter from her in the mail on Tuesday.

It's been interesting having only Nathan around this week. Things seem a little easier and I think he is enjoying having mom and dad to himself. But it's clear he misses Sarah a little. We took him to a local water park on Wednesday and as we were getting ready and telling him where we were going he said, "But I need a sister to go with me." Awww.

On another completely unrelated note, I've added some things to my side bar. I feel like a real-life blogger now that I've signed up with Feedburner and have posted a widget for subscription in not only in readers, but by email as well. So, if you'd like to get updates from the dear ol' blog in your email inbox, just head on over and sign up. I have the same things on the Recipe Blog, too.

Y'all have a good day and I'll be back tomorrow with a "fresh" Foodie Friday post.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

BBA Challenge #8 - Cinnamon Rolls

A couple of months ago, I spent some time testing a few different cinnamon roll formulas as I began down my yeast bread baking journey. Because seriously, what's the point in ever baking yeast bread if you're not going to make cinnamon rolls? I can't think of one.

I first made these Black Forest Buns because, oddly enough, I had some extra chocolate cake sitting around that I needed to use in some way. They were yum.

I also tried a recipe/formula by Art Smith from his book Back to the Family. It was kind of a fussy recipe and I realized too late in the process that the formula omitted salt. I noticed it but it was too late to add some in. They fermented and proofed fine, but tasted... blech.

You can see pictures of my attempts at both of the above recipes here.

I also tried the formula from my Williams Sonoma book The Essentials of Baking. This formula was easier and tasted better. But it made a LOT of cinnamon rolls. More than my little family of four need ever eat.

So, to say that I was excited about getting to the cinnamon roll formula in the Bread Baker's Apprentice is an understatement of epic proportions. Let me put it to you this way: I have had a tab on the page marking this recipe since the day I got the book and first looked through it.

I actually have a reason for this obsession with the cinnamon roll. My family loves the Pillsbury Orange Cinnamon Rolls from a can. I KNOW... It's. SO. Shameful. But I'll admit that they are good and so easy. But I have wanted to find a homemade solution to this canned madness in my house. And this formula by Peter Reinhart may be the answer.


I looked over the ingredient list and thought, "Lemon extract? Why would I use lemon when orange is so much better?" And since I always have orange extract on hand for a few of my recipes, I used it instead.

As I have mentioned before, I do enjoy working with soft dough. I have much more success with elasticity and gluten development in these softer enriched doughs than I do with some stiffer doughs.


And just LOOK at that windowpane!

That's probably about as good of a window "pain" test that you will ever see from me again.


So the dough did its dough thing of fermenting for a while. I rolled it out, spread on some cinnamon sugar and then rolled it up to slice.



Now, every book that I have encountered has you cut the cinnamon rolls with a knife, so I have been trying to do that. But I remember back when my mom used to make them, she used fishing line since it was always around the house. We do not have any, but I think I'm about to buy me some because this knife business is for the birds in my oh so humble opinion.

With the fishing line, you hold a length of it on either end. Slide it up under the log to the length that you want to cut, then cross the ends over the top and pull. Trust me, it makes a beautifully round cinnamon roll. I'll post a tutorial some time to show you.

I also experimented a little bit. I cut half of the log into rolls and put them in the fridge to bake the next morning (Friday). I was having such a hard time cutting the tender dough that I left the other half as a log and put it in the fridge to then slice and bake on Saturday.

I tell you what, the refrigerated dough was so much easier to slice. The only problem I found was that the holes of the cross section of the dough were a little more visible in the dough that was refrigerated first. But hey, that gets covered up with this...











Overall Impressions:

This was a very good formula; and I feel like I can say that with a knowledge base of having tried several. I love the substituted orange extract and also used orange extract in the glaze.

I would like to make them smaller and may try to do so next time because...

Would I make this recipe again? Oh heavens... YES!!!


To read about the Bread Baker's Apprentice Challenge, go here.