Saturday, November 24, 2012

Bounty in the Backyard

Here's a glimpse of the bounty in our backyard at the moment:
Our oranges are finally ready to harvest! Yeah! I tried one this morning and it was good! Looking forward to finding some fun uses for all these navel oranges. Ideas?
Fava beans are shooting up like rockets!
Lettuce, kale, and beets are doing well. And calendula is still going strong and giving us lots of sunshine-colored flowers to keep us in good cheer.

This weekend we also planted two kinds of raspberries to add to our blueberries and strawberries! Can't wait to enjoy all of this fresh fruit from the backyard.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Apple Hill Cake

My good people: Today I realized that I have been holding out on you. Not intentionally, but more due to a lapse of memory. You see, I assumed that I had already shared with you my family's favorite recipe for apple cake, which is in my mind, the best ever. I have shared several other forays into the apple cake realm, but not the one recipe that our family always makes year after year.  This recipe is so well-loved, I assumed it was put on the blog long ago, but when I went to look it up today on the blog before using up the last of the apples I picked last month, I saw my folly.

 I shall correct this oversight immediately! To me, this will always be the king of apple cakes. It is impeccable in its simplicity, the instructions being easy enough for a child to make it. (I made it as a child many times myself!)

 In appearance, it is humble and unassuming, but the texture is sheer genius - crackly crisp on top with moist, juicy apple-laced cake underneath. The smell that fills your kitchen while it bakes, that spiced apple one - it is heaven on earth. Oh, and the name comes from the local Apple Hill farms that are a popular autumn destination. The farms sell little cookbooks and this is one of their signature recipes.

I made the cake tonight with whole wheat flour and it worked quite well. I also halved the recipe and baked for 40 minutes in a square baking dish.

Apple Hill Cake

2 c. sugar
1/2 c. oil
2 eggs

4 c. diced apples (6 or 7)
2 c. flour
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. nutmeg

Bake in a 9x13 greased pan at 350 for 40-60 minutes, when a tester inserted into the cake comes out with a few moist crumbs.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Nautical Baby Shower: My First Ever

This weekend I was very pleased to co-host my first baby shower ever. The guest of honor: My oldest friend, due on Christmas Day with a baby boy. The nursery theme was to be blue and nautical, so I teamed up with my friend's mom (known for her elaborate themed parties), my mom, and another friend (they all were good friends in high school) to throw a blue, sailing-themed shower. (My friend's husband sails on San Francisco Bay, hence the theme.) We gained so much inspiration from the Internet and Pinterest that I felt I should contribute our own twist on the theme.

Let's start at the entrance - Game #1 on the left, Guess the number of M&Ms in the Cookie Jar Mix. It's a mason jar filled with a homemade cookie mix, with a bottle topper that makes it look like a bottle. Our winner guessed the exact number - 350- and won the cookie mix (of course)!

Opposite entrance: "Pearls of Wisdom" station - Guests write advice for the new mother-to-be on white paper circular "pearls".

 This was an early afternoon affair, and lunch was to be served. Dining tables were set with navy tablecloths, with dishes of Goldfish crackers, netting, seashells...

And candles with white flowers and napkins. The napkin rings were tied with navy twine and each had a white Lifesaver candy tied to it.

Next up: The "Mess Hall".

Adorable "Baby in the Pram" fruit platter, by our artistic friend.

Sailboat deviled eggs on the left, veggie platter on the right with dip in bell pepper "boats".

Chicken salad croissant sandwiches ("chicken of the sea") with mini shrimp cocktails on the right:

Shrimp Louie salad...

Salmon-cream cheese "sand dollars":

Trio of sandwiches...

Homemade clam dip... in a crab. Whatever!

One of my contributions: a variety of blue creme sodas with striped straws - on ice:

All the food was labeled - This one is an "East Indian Artichoke Rice Salad".

After our lunch, we retired to the living room to open gifts:

The invitations had announced, "Ahoy, it's a boy!"

How detailed oriented is my friend's mother? She looked up the actual nautical flags to spell out the baby's name: Liam. I never would have guessed that this decoration spelled anything, much less his name!

After a competitive but friendly game of "Baby Jeopardy" and "Baby Gift Bingo" during the opening of the gifts, it was time for dessert.

Butter cookies that look like life preservers:

My mom made these "beachy" lemon cupcakes:

And I made the "Sailboat Chocolate Cupcake Tower".

  Last, but not least, hand-stamped napkins. Whew, I never would have thought of such a thing!

 In the end, it was a perfect shower. Fun, great food, intimate, and entertaining, with many wonderful people to meet and enjoy. I felt very fortunate to be able to work with so many talented and creative women to celebrate this moment in my friend's life.