Sunday, June 16, 2013

School's OUT!

Yesterday 's was LBA's last day of school.  It was a half day and we added to the celebrating last night with a pizza party for LBA and his baseball buddies at the pool.  LBA is now officially a "rising third grader."  Next week he will start his "camp run" with British Soccer Camp, followed by a three-day canoe camp, courtesy of my MIL.

As some of you, my faithful readers, know, I used to be a school teacher.  Despite what some people say - Summer Vacation is not all it's cracked up to be.  You still have to work and a lot of kids head to summer school or camp.  I was lucky enough to have a stay at home mother so I had a lot of free time during the summer - but that is not the case for most kids anymore.

All totaled, I was a school teacher for about six years.  My brother has been a teacher for many years and one of my sisters has recently gotten into teaching. I was not a teacher for too long (as described in this post from BuzzFeed), but I may have made some of the jokes.

Happy Summer!

Monday, June 10, 2013

Creme Caramel

My grandmother was French and there was a lot of french cuisine growing up.  One thing that made appearances for special occasions was her creme caramel.  In the scattering of some of my grandmother's things, I got two of her creme caramel ramekins (along with the plastic mugs that we kids used to drink out of in the house in Maine).

As an adult, I think I would like this a lot more now than I feel I exhibited as a child. From the Amateur Gourmet.

Crème Caramel
Summary: By way of Julia Child and the Gratinee blog. 

  • 1 vanilla bean (it’s worth it to buy a vanilla bean for this recipe; if you really don’t want to, use 1 teaspoon really good vanilla extract) 
  • 2 1/2 cups milk 
  • 2/3 cup sugar (for the caramel) PLUS 1/2 cup sugar (for the custard) 
  • 1/3 cup water 
  • 3 eggs 
  • 3 egg yolks 

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F. 
  2. Start by steeping the vanilla bean in the milk. Slice the pod in half vertically (a paring knife works well), scrape the seeds out with the side of the knife and add them, along with the pod, to the milk in a pot. Turn up the heat, whisk a little (helps break up the seeds) and when you see bubbles around the rim turn off the heat and allow the milk to steep while you complete the rest of the steps. 
  3. Set four to six ramekins on the counter and begin to make your caramel. Add the sugar (that’s 2/3 cup) and water together in a pot and bring up the heat to medium/high. Don’t stir but rotate the pan around to help the sugar dissolve. As it cooks (and depending on how high you have the heat, this could take a while) the color will eventually start to change. Watch it carefully. When it turns a very dark amber, almost brown, pour it directly into the ramekins. (Be careful: that’s sticky, scalding hot stuff.) Swirl the ramekins around a little so it gets an even coating of caramel. Set the pan aside and you can clean it later by adding water and bringing it to a boil and whisking; the caramel will dissolve easily. 
  4. Now make your custard. Beat the remaining 1/2 cup sugar into the eggs and egg yolks until light and foamy. Gradually add the warm milk mixture (remove the vanilla pod first), whisking all the while, until you have something that looks like a custard. Strain it into a separate bowl. 
  5. Pour the strained custard into the ramekins on top of the caramel and then put the ramekins in a large roasting pan or baking dish. Fill the pan with boiling water so it comes halfway up the ramekins and place the whole pan, carefully, into the oven. (If you’re nervous, you can put the pan in the oven first and add the boiling water while it’s in the oven. Up to you. Depends on your balancing ability.) 
  6. Bake for 5 minutes then turn the temperature down to 325 and bake another 40 minutes or until the center of each ramekin is no longer wobbly. (I just stuck my finger on top of the custard and felt it; when it was mostly firm, I knew it was done.) Remove the pan from the oven, take the ramekins out and allow them to come to room temperature. Then cover with plastic and refrigerate until ready to serve. 
  7. To serve, run a knife around the edge of the ramekin, put a plate on top and flip the ramekin over. Pat it a few times to help the custard come down and then lift. If all goes according to plan, you’ll have a cute little ramekin-shaped custard topped with caramel and surrounded by caramel sauce. Job well done. 
Preparation time: 45 minute(s)
Cooking time: 45 minute(s)
Number of servings (yield): 6

Friday, June 7, 2013

Baseball Movies

Tomorrow is LBA's last baseball game - he has been playing on a team this year comprised of 9 and 10 year-old kids and has been holding his own.  I'm very proud of him.  The team hasn't done well (their best games were the rainouts) but he has contributed to the team in just about every game.

LBA is of course a big fan of baseball movies - I caught him watching "A League of Their Own" unsupervised a while back - though we had watched together before - and luckily, for the most part - the adult content goes over his head.  LBA was also after me to take him to see 42, the Jackie Robinson biopic, we missed it in the theaters - but we will see it as soon as its available on demand.

But here's a brief essay (click on the link for pictures from the post) of "Why Baseball Movies are the Best"
It starts when you’re young . . . When you still believe anything could happen . . . Like Tony Danza could be a star pitcher. And breaking your arm could help you earn a spot on the Cubs. Being an MLB manager before graduating middle school doesn’t seem too crazy. And a bunch of misfits could become champions. It’s a sport filled with has-beens, renegades, and never-will-bes. It’s dominated by weird superstitions and even weirder personalities. And hey, this happened in a baseball movie! It’s a comedy of errors, but sometimes, when you least expect it, it knocks you off your feet. Because baseball has heart, miles and miles of heart, where naturals finally get their storybook ending. And it’s okay to cry, no matter what Tom Hanks says. Because it’s a place where it’s okay to listen to mysterious voices, and it’s okay to dream. Because baseball represents something more and you’re never too old to have a catch with your dad.

Monday, June 3, 2013


I would drink sangria more. There's nothing quite like a good sangria.  And of course, these recipes, from the Smitten Kitchen, sound outstanding.

Two Sangrias
The first recipe is a classic, not very sweet sangria with a moderate yield and a minimum of odd ingredients. It’s the little black dress/white oxford of sangrias. Susan Spungen recommends trying it with white wine instead of red in the summer, and adding peaches or berries too. The second is the one we fell in love with at a small restaurant in our neighborhood. It’s much less sweet (it has barely a pinch of sugar in it, though you can add more), and tastes mostly of wine, with a little pep from fizz, and it makes a whole lot. Rose is added to lighten the mixture. The chef, Rafael Mateo, recommends you let it “knit” together overnight, and only adding the fruit to each glass to serve. 

Classic Sangria
From Susan Spungen’s What’s a Hostess To Do?
  • 1 bottle dry red wine 
  • 1 tablespoon sugar 
  • 1/4 cup brandy 
  • 1/4 cup Triple sec or another orange liqueur 
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice 
  • Sliced peaches, apples, oranges or berries, tossed with a squeeze of lemon juice 
  • Sparkling water, if desired 
Mix the wine, sugar, brandy, liqueur and orange juice in a large pitcher. Add fruit and let sit in the fridge until needed. Add some sparkling water (if using) right before serving. A slotted spoon will help guests hold back the fruit while pouring their glasses, and spoon some on top if desired.

Pata Negra’s Sangria
Adapted from the restaurant, via The New York Times 
  • 2 bottles dry Spanish red wine (they recommend garnacha) 
  • 1 bottle dry Spanish rosé (they recommend this to lighten the body of the sangria) 
  • 1 ounce orange liqueur (such as Triple Sec or Torres) 
  • 2 ounces brandy, preferably Spanish, such as Romate 
  • 1 tablespoon sugar, or more to taste 
  • 2 apples, cored and diced, for garnish (I used one red and one green, for color) 
  • 2 oranges, cut into wedges, for garnish 
  • 12 ounces (1 can) orange soda (they recommend less sweet brands such as San Pellegrino aranciata) 

In a large vessel, combine wines, liqueur, brandy and sugar. Mix fruit and set aside. Right before serving, pour in soda. Fill glasses with ice, and pour sangria over. Garnish with fruit.