Monday, January 31, 2011

Working on: Bread

While the oven was out of commission for five weeks, I had a difficult time adjusting to life without fresh-baked bread. The night the oven died, my lovely neighbor Sarah allowed me to bake my five loaves that had risen on my counter at her house (last minute teacher and school friend gifts... gasp!). Later I baked at my parents' house, but nothing compares to hanging out in my robe, mug in hand, waiting for a hot loaf to come out of our oven.
I remembered finally that my brother and sister-in-law had given me their small bread machine and it was hiding in our basement, untouched. One day I decided that it might be worth it to try it, perhaps even using the timer feature and setting it to be ready in the morning. I dutifully followed the recipe one night for a hearty oatmeal loaf and set it up to be hot and ready at 6:00 a.m. as my coffee began sputtering in the pot adjacent to it on the counter. The smell? Amazing. The bread? Pasty white and not even worth mentioning. Am I looking forward to my first loaf in our new oven? Definitely!
Does anyone know of a good recipe for a bread machine? Or is this the reason why all thrift stores are filled with bread machines? Please share your tips!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Liberty Custard: Losing a dear friend

Tonight was the last night for our dear old friend and neighbor: Liberty Frozen Custard. About seven years ago an inspired couple bought an old-school gas station and refurbished it into a beautiful neighborhood charmer, a locally owned ice cream, er custard shop that sold kiddie cones for less than a buck. They ran a lovely business for those seven years and realized that they just couldn't sustain it anymore.
With the restored luster of this old-school place, families from around Minneapolis would stop in for a quick cone on a hot summer's day, after a concert or sporting event, or even in the middle of a cold, snowy afternoon. My kids grew up here, tasting their first bites of rich creamy custard while still riding in the baby Bjorn front pack. They learned how to play pinball, how to put a quarter in the little red car, how to get their own glass of water from the old fashioned beverage machine. I think Liberty Custard may have been responsible for helping me pack on a few pounds of pregnancy weight with Gus and Louise.When we heard the news, we made sure to take a last family outing to celebrate their great run in the neighborhood and to say goodbye. Each of the kids got to play a few games, ride the red car and the boys took one last spin at the large chess set. I shed a few tears when I realized that for Gus and Louise, at ages five and three, Liberty may not be a memory they'll be able to take with them. We'll have to remember it in our hearts and retell the stories of their childhoods.
Tonight Liberty Custard closed. While we were celebrating Ron's belated birthday with my family, my Dad ran out to grab a few of their last pints of custard to go with the cake. They were out of custard, but he bought a couple pints of their yummy Italian Ice. As we drove home from my parents' house afterwards, we saw them carrying the pinball table out the front door, loading it into a U Haul truck.
Goodbye, sweet Liberty. We loved you 'til the last lick.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

A Step Back... part two

We hosted officially ONE event here during the Christmas season, a post-Christmas pageant brunch with our parents. Our oven had just officially died and we were faced with the prospect of making brunch, oven-free. As a baker, I wonder if there is a more difficult fate? Alas, we remembered the electric fry pan and realized that our brunch could be saved! Hello beignets! We served a southern inspired four-course brunch. Louise had fallen asleep on the way home from church and continued her slumber. Carl and Gus busied themselves playing Legos nearby while both sets of grandparents enjoyed the leisurely pace of the meal.
Mimosas, a tangerine and roasted beet salad on arugula with cranberry vinagrette, a tweaked version of of this succotash (corn, red peppers, green beans, baby lima beans, zucchini, herbs and a splash of cream!), red beans and rice, and coffee and beignets for dessert. We might have set a record for brunch at our normally fast-paced breakfast time.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

A Step Back... part one

I let Christmas pass by my blog this year, accidentally. Oops.
In the spirit of the new year and starting over, I'm forgiving myself and allowing myself to go ahead and post a few highlights, knowing that someday I'll be glad that I just went ahead and posted them, end-of-January-or not.
Here was our holiday card this year, designed by Flipawoo. I found her on Etsy and loved her speed and quality.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Keeping Busy

Here I am, back at the computer hiding in the cold basement. I can't quite figure out what my writer's block has been related to.... the cold in the basement? Being back at work? Keeping up with the laundry? There must be a way to find balance, right?
One thing we have been doing well lately is finding ways to keep busy inside. One cold, snowy afternoon recently we popped popcorn in our Stir-Crazy popcorn popper (does anyone make real popcorn anymore besides us?) and giggled the afternoon away. The boys played Legos, Louise colored, we all cuddled on the couch and read books together.