Monday, April 23, 2012

Feast of St. George

Today marks the first "name day" feast of the year for our family...the Feast of St. George.
A 15th century Georgian plaque depicting Saint George rescuing the emperor's daughter.

Not a lot is known about St. George. He is reported to have been martyred by the Emperor Diocletian for his Christian faith in the year 303. Legend has it that he killed a dragon to save a village and was able to marry a princess because of his bravery. He is the patron saint of many countries, including England and Catalonia (in Spain).

Not feeling particularly excited by any of the traditional English food options (and not owning a deep fryer in which to make fish and chips!), we decided to go with a Spanish/Catalan menu. We had paella with chicken and chorizo, sangria, and flan, all courtesy of George's culinary skills. 

It is traditional in some parts of Spain on St. George's Day for people to exchange roses and books (as it is also the anniversary of Miguel Cervantes' death). The Boy and I spent the afternoon making St. George's flags to decorate our dining room and making some tissue paper roses for our table. We set them with some votive candles on top of some books as a nod to the Spanish tradition (and because it was more interesting to look at than having them flat on the table).

Working hard on some St. George's flags
George has an interesting relationship with his namesake...being Mennonite and a pacifist, he can't exactly get behind St. George's military exploits and dragon-stabbing legend. For a long time, he had this print of St. George healing the dragon hanging in his office at church. We moved it to the dining room for the feast celebration.

This feast will go down in history as a success, partially because it is our first feast celebration since the ill-fated Easter feast (which I will someday write a blog post about). Nothing shattered this time, and all the courses of the meal remained intact for us to eat them.

Happy St. George's Day...and happy birthday to Shakespeare, as well.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

TWD: Baking with Julia- Lemon Loaf Cake

I was not sure what to expect from this recipe. There was some negative chatter from some of the bakers ahead of time. One said it was tasteless. Another called it too dense. Several said they had lemon pound cake recipes they preferred, and some were even sharing them.

I'm still a baking novice (although with more experience than I had when we started!) - there is no way I'm going to be critical of a Julia Child recipe at this point, no matter how many other people say they didn't like it. I had no reason to doubt it would be delicious. Besides, I've never made anyone's lemon loaf...this is my first.

Since there seemed to be a general agreement that the cake could use something, I decided to make a lemon curd to have with it (just in case). At the suggestion of another TWD baker, I used this recipe from Ina Garten and found it fairly quick and not too difficult. I did have to turn my burner up to medium heat to get the curd to thicken. It turned out perfectly and is absolutely delicious.

The cake itself was a snap. The most difficult part was zesting the lemons. If I were going to make this on a regular basis, I would invest in a microplane grater to make that part easier. Between the curd and the cake, I zested six lemons. My little zester from Target has never seen this much made zest, but it took a long time.

The reactions from George and The Boy were great. George, who is generally a lemon dessert kind of guy, gave the cake high marks on its own but felt the curd really made it special. The Boy said, "Mmmmm! Good! Yes, good. Very good, Mama." The babies, who were eyeing the cake longingly, seemed to be asking why cake is excluded from the growing list of foods they are now eating. I did let The Bug taste a little lemon curd from my finger, but she was less enchanted than the rest of us. The Belle, not to be outdone, slurped her taste from her dad's finger and immediately asked for more (which he gave her).

(Please advise the Natural Parenting Police that we gave the babies sugary dessert only a day after they turned 7 months old. Oh, how our smug parenting standards have fallen! I guess having twins will do that to you in some cases...and we must be one of those cases. Next thing you know, we'll be letting them drink Diet Coke and watch Nickelodeon.)

I loved the texture of the cake and thought it was not as heavy as some pound cakes I have had. I did not have the cake flour it called for, so I used Gold Medal all-purpose (minus 2 tablespoons) and thought the result was just fine. I do think the lemon curd (and the strawberries I served on the side) rounded the cake out nicely and made it feel more like a complete dessert. That said, I would definitely serve the loaf on its own for tea or breakfast, maybe even lightly toasted with some preserves.

Or some more lemon curd. I have a whole lot of lemon curd left over. Any ideas what one does with lemon curd? We were thinking about making some crepes...what other ideas do you have?

Our hosts this week, Michelle at The Beauty of Life and Truc at Treats, have the recipe posted on their blogs.

Laura, my intrepid Nome-dwelling sister baker, is working (no, really!) in Las Vegas this week...stay tuned for the Western Alaskan twist she will inevitably produce at her blog, My Dog Parker.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

TWD: Spring Break.

My Tuesday with Dorie is going to be late this week.

Today is Tuesday, and it's a Dorie Tuesday, with a yummy new recipe to try. We're on spring break, though, with George home from work all week, and with all the fun day trips and home improvement projects, TWD crept right up on me and surprised me! We have so many things going at once, and I just can't bear to be inside any more than I have to. So no baking project today. I hope to get to it next week (or maybe over the weekend) and post about it then.

Here's a snapshot of what we are up to today:

It's perfect weather for line-drying diapers, and they could definitely use a little sun.

It seems I always end up re-hanging everything to consolidate a bit and make the clothespins I have stretch further. Instead of 2 pins per diaper, this is like 3 pins for every 2 diapers...and even that wasn't quite enough. Good thing I am resourceful (and it's not a windy day like we often have here...I'm not sure they'd stay put in a stiff wind).

The clothesline and clothespins and diapers reminded me of being a kid at my Gram's house and making forts with the sheets on the line when she hung out her wash. I thought fondly about that for a few minutes and then decided to give her a call. She and Gramp were about to head out for a walk, but it was nice to chat for a few minutes. The Boy and I might need to make a sheet fort later when the clothespins are available again.

George and The Boy went to the co-op and got deck screws to reinforce the play structure. They picked up a little something extra, too. It's early - we should wait until Sunday - but we didn't.

The weather is so lovely here, and we're building raised beds for our vegetable garden and planting flowers. I pulled piles of weeds during nap time and was too hot and sweaty to go back out to take pictures of them. You'll have to use your imagination.

We also have a few trees to plant - volunteers from our friends Mark and Wendy. There are redbuds, a dogwood, some persimmons, and a scarlet oak. I can't remember which is which, but I know Wendy will know and can help me figure out where to put them. Thank goodness for friends with superior plant knowledge!

Tomorrow is zoo day - we'll be going to DC for the day to visit the National Zoo. We are all so excited. The Boy can't wait to ride the Metro and see the tigers. I promise to take lots of pictures and let you all know how it goes.

And now, some gratuitous baby cuteness:

Happy Tuesday of Holy Week to you all.